Tuesday, May 1, 2012

chamomile volunteers

The gardens I love most are those in which there is room for the weeds.  The way plants jockey for position in the garden moves me.  There is only so much real estate, and each plant competes for space.  They compete with each other, and they compete with me.  I have a strong will, but so do the plants.  We share a common will toward life.  Perhaps they don't wake up on some mornings and think, I'm not so sure I want to live this life, but even so we are fundamentally the same: we have come to life, and following through on life is what we do.  Obviously plants cannot be self-destructive—"self-destructive" is a term that we humans reserve for ourselves, a notion that we use to set ourselves apart from the rest of life—but I can never approach that sort of idea without questioning it, which is to say that I'm not sure what self-destructive really means this morning.  One thing is sure: I am not a plant.

Look at that will!  Lemme drop some botanical knowledge and give you the back story.  BOTANICAL KNOWLEDGE: chamomile seeds are so light; they're almost like flour.  The wind, who is the nemesis of reading the newspaper and rolling cigarettes outdoors, is the chaperon of the chamomile.  When the seed heads mature and bust open, the wind disperses the seeds.  It blows them around the way it blows dust around.  And so it is that this chamomile plant arrived in its current location.  Last year I had a bunch of chamomile plants in one continuous location in my garden, which is to say in one spot.  This year there are chamomile plants all over my garden, and some of them have even ventured beyond the garden to take up residence in that most difficult piece of real estate, the thin layer of dirt alongside the road.  You can see that it's a stressful but not inhospitable place to live.  The plant's stems are red, and red, in this case, means I'm stressed.  Stressed but making it even so.          

If you pay attention to where volunteers show up in your garden, or where they show up period, you can learn a lot about life, most of which I am not inclined to talk about this morning.  This little chamomile bugger is also very near the curb, and he is bound for a premature death.  I mean, there's no way he's gonna make it.  He has the lawn mower to contend with, and the grass that surrounds him will bounce back much more readily from a mowing.  If I didn't mow the parkway at all this season—and I'm very tempted not to mow this year—that chamomile plant might manage to produce a few seeds.  It's trying to produce them now.  Look at it struggle with its dinky yellow helmet! Bless you, tiny warrior.

Chamomile actually likes tough locations, which is to say that it is cut out to live in the tough locations where many other plants cannot, but it does live much more successfully if it finds itself with a nice piece of real estate that is free of too much competition.  This is why cities are not fruitful places.  We can inhabit them, and boy do we ever inhabit them, but we don't find an abundance of orchards among all that concrete.  A tree does grow in Brooklyn, as the story goes, and it's a nice tree, apples or no apples. 

So, yeah.  Hopefully I have complicated your thinking about the difference between humans and plants this morning.  I gotta fetch my breakfast now.      

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