Category Archives: the book I read

Maiden's blush

In my garden this summer, Maiden’s Blush has flowered largely, some of her blossoms flushed so deeply pink as to deserve the adjective émue. So what does it mean to look at the blossoms and think of sex. Am I thinking metaphorically? Well, yes and no. This flower, like all flowers, is a sexual organ. The uncultured bumblebee seems to find the blossom just as attractive as I do; he seems to be just as bowled over by its perfume. Yet I can’t believe that I gaze on the blossom in quite the same way he does. Its allure, for me, has to do with its resemblance to women—to “the thighs of an aroused nymph,” about which I can assume he feels nothing. For this is a resemblance my species has bred, or selected, this rose to have. So is it imaginary? Merely a representation? (But what about the bee?! That’s no representation he’s pollinating.) Are we, finally, speaking of nature or culture when we speak of a rose (nature) that has been bred (culture) so that its blossoms (nature) make men imagine (culture) the sex of women (nature)?

This may be the sort of confusion we need more of. (97)

 Michael Pollan Second Nature: A Gardner’s Education

This has to be one of the most ugly and confusing paragraphs I’ve ever read from Michael Pollan. I’m sure it’s intentional and its structure mirrors its concept. However, I can’t help but think there has to be a better way to describe this relationship. The cooperative nature of man’s relation with plants becomes his subject in The Botany of Desire, but what fascinates me here is his probing of the relationship between the symbolic and the actual/functional character of things.

6412 Mignonette

My father and I in the backyard of 6412 Mignonette Street, Bakersfield, CA

If gardening is an exploration of a place close to home, being a teenager is an exploration of mobility, and these two approaches to place, or home, are bound to sooner or later come into conflict. For at least a decade I probably didn’t think once about plants or even notice a landscape. Eventually, though, I came back to the garden, which is probably how it usually goes. Much of gardening is a return, an effort at recovering remembered landscapes. (33)

 Michael Pollan Second Nature: A Gardner’s Education

Grandpa could be perfectly happy spending his mornings tenderly cultivating the land and his afternoons despoiling it. Thoreau, planting his bean field, said he aimed to make the earth “speak beans.” Some days, my grandfather made the earth speak vegetables; other days it was shopping centers. (11)

Michael Pollan Second Nature: A Gardner’s Education