in which I show a little skin
Tags: "hold infinity in the palm of your hand", Alison Anderson, Autoportrait au Radiateur, autumn in the Victory Garden, Black Beauty eggplant, Bobin's work in translation, Christian Bobin, gardens as a form of autobiography, lost in translation, Mother Nature, mourning, personal blog, plastic perfection, prose-poetry, texture in the garden, the Victory Garden, William Blake, wonder
“To see a world in a grain of sand
And heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand
And eternity in an hour.”
– William Blake
It’s a funny thing about this blog. Sometimes it feels almost faceless. Certainly, none of the photographs are of me. My personal portrait appears on the other blog, as do most of the details of my life that I let show on the blog-o-sphere. And yet I do feel as if this blog is extremely personal. It is, after all, a journal, where I record what’s happening now in the garden, and the garden is so much a part of my life. It is even a kind of reflection of me.
As Sydney Eddison once wrote in Horticulture Magazine, “Gardens are a form of autobiography.” And it is so true.
I feel myself personally revealed in the details of my little kitchen garden and in what I choose to photograph and journal about here: what I consider important, what is unexpected to my relatively inexperienced eye, what is not at all surprising but eagerly anticipated, what delights me, what is merely tolerated, what I feel I can teach others, what bewilders me and shows how far I have to go, what pleases my palate, what leaves a bitter aftertaste, what makes my day, what brings me to the verge of tears, what is worth sharing, what is ruthlessly suppressed….
Here is a beautiful eggplant blossom that had fallen and nestled among the still-green leaves of the remaining ‘Black Beauty’ plant. It was not fertilized and so fell off stem and all. It was so soft I carried it around for the rest of the day in the left pocket of my hoodie, where I fingered it several times each hour, slowly pulverizing it and lining my pocket with brown bits of petal.
I have been in love with fading, wilting and spent blossoms for a long time. It seems a very strange taste to have, in the era of flowers (and everything else) so perfect they could be plastic. At least, this is how I feel people in my culture most often see flowers, in bud, unfolding to perfection, at peak bloom — or not at all.
The first time I felt not so alone in this passion was in reading Christian Bobin’s Autoportrait au Radiateur, wherein he has written some of the most glorious passages about wilting tulips it has been my pleasure to discover, written during a year of mourning and coming to terms with death and somehow — with great lurching, awkward, irregular steps and graceful leaps and pirouettes, and missteps, too — dancing himself back to life, bit by bit.
It’s an incredible book, and I’ve been incredibly frustrated ever since I read it that M. Bobin has not been translated much into English. Especially as now, when someone I’m close to is dealing with the painful task of mourning, and I don’t quite know what to say, and keep wishing I could quote directly from its passages in a sympathy card — or, better yet, just send along a copy of the book.
Despite its unavailability here, his writing is something of a phenomenon in France, where no one can quite define it. Is it poetry? Or prose? Essay, maybe? But it might be fiction… hmm….
I love that he’s turned all of that on its head, so that you just pay attention to the words on the page, and soon get wrapped up tightly in their spiral of Beauty. Nature infuses so much of his writing, but I would not call him a nature writer. His writing is all about Being, I’d say, and especially Being Human, and doing it with grace and enthusiasm, forgiveness and gentle humor, childlike wonder and joy.
Anyway, the good news is, along with flashing a little skin in this post, I can tell you one of my favorite writers is soon to be more generally available in English. I can’t wait to pick up the two paperbacks out in translation this December, see if the translator, Alison Anderson, has done Bobin’s work justice, and perhaps finally be able to recommend some of my favorite books to my friends.