an insect’s view
Tags: an insect view, finding Beauty, garden attachment, meadow pleasures, Nature's invitation, not knowing the future, Penstemon 'Husker's Red', South Carolina Botanical Gardens, Thoreau quote, uncertainty, wild violets, winter foliage color
“Nature will bear the closest inspection. She invites us to lay our eye level with her smallest leaf, and take an insect view of its plain.”
~ Henry David Thoreau
I never could resist nature’s invitations. This beauty, seen from an insect’s point of reference, is Penstemon ‘Husker’s Red,’ according to the label placed in the ground nearby at the South Carolina Botanical Gardens.
Isn’t that some lovely winter color?
Penstemon ‘Husker’s Red’ was not familiar to me, nor was any other Penstemon, that I could recall. When I arrived home, I looked it up on the internet and decided its bloom is pretty ordinary, not show-stopping like the winter foliage. But then, none of the pictures of its flower spikes are taken from the insect’s-eye position. It may well be that the blossoms are more gorgeous than I can conceive now.
If I were going to be staying here for longer than a few months more, I’d probably be tempted to plant a few of these beauties, just to enjoy their technicolor display when everything else is dormant and draped in garments of sepia, brown, buff, rust, and grey.
It seems lately that I’m saying that a lot in my mind — and aloud: “If we were going to be staying.” Sigh. I so long to put down some roots. And if you had told me that I’d want to settle down even five years ago, when the wanderlust was still active, I would not have believed you.
What has been particularly frustrating as I plan for this year’s garden is that I do not know precisely when we will leave. It could be August or September. It might even be December or January. And if the job market is uncooperative, we might still be here a year from now.
I cannot know all of the variables in advance. Of course, this is the common condition of all of humanity; it’s simply that routine and habit tend to blind us to this reality, so that we can get comfortable and forget it for the majority of our lives. That comfortable and selective amnesia serves a purpose, too, allowing us to focus our energies on other things. Lately, I wish I could forget, as well, along with the crowd.
As the moment of our departure approaches, I feel paradoxically more and more attached to my little garden and its particularities.
Who will care for it when I’m gone? No one. It is slated to be returned to grass. And not even nice grass. The kind of lawn-ish turf that is mostly composed of weeds and is mowed down to a brutal two-inch-tall crewcut once a month by the kamikaze, mower-riding teenager paid to do yard maintenance by the landlord.
The first haircut last year had me in tears, since F. and I had enjoyed the tall, unkempt meadow during the already hot days of April and May, laying in it and staring up through layers of pristine dogwood blossoms to the blue dome beyond, feeling the Earth’s cool caress on our backs, with long stems of grass tickling the periphery of our vision and the scent of crushed dogtooth violets rising around us.
If you are going to let a natural meadow spring up in your backyard, then let it grow. Do not shear it off to the ground so that it withers and turns yellow and white in the dry heat. This is pure cruelty… brought about by ignorance perhaps, but cruelty nonetheless.
I cried for those lost idyllic days and for all the poor wild violets, missing their faces.
Now I’m not crying, but I am sometimes worried. Wherever we end up, will there even be violets? What about space for a little garden? Will it be an ugly place? There are so very many ugly places in this world… and many of them are rental units.
Whenever these thoughts assail me, I try to remember that wherever I’ve been, there has always been beauty for those willing to find it. If nothing else, I may have to get in close and take “an insect view of the plain.” But I will always find it, I’m convinced.
Finding beauty is an undervalued talent comprised of equal parts willingness, curiosity, an open mind, and the ability to pay attention. As with everything else in life, what matters most is what is within us, not what is outside our control.
Or so I tell myself this dreary Tuesday morning.