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.