While checking out a post at Red, White and Grew (RW&G) about garden update photos (the idea is that readers and bloggers will share pictures of current happenings in their little patch) I quick scanned the comments. One reader asked if RW&G grew marigolds for their rabbit repelling abilities, and her response struck a chord:
"Bunnies aren’t an issue for us. Marigolds are in part an homage to a passage in “Places Left Unfinished at The Time of Creation,” a non-fiction book by a San Antonio author. =)"
People grow things for many different reasons. I grow fennel because it attracts pollinators, and because each time that licorice-y flavor fills my mouth I think of Frog Holler Farm's salad mix and all the wonderful days I spent working and playing there. I grow zinnias and cosmos because they're pretty and attract pollinators, but also because the sight of them transports me to my mother's garden in Wisconsin. (And when I was a fussy non-gardening child there, but that's another story.) I grow kale because it's so tasty and good for me, but also in honor of my first ever CSA membership at Henry's Farm. There I also met another now old friend, Swiss Chard. The immigrants in The Earth Knows My Name fill their gardens with tastes, sights, and sounds of home, and RW&G plants in part because of a book.
Louise Erdrich brought me geraniums. Before her gift, I dismissed them as a flower old people planted in cemeteries. I avoided them in nurseries. I thought they were "common." Their unattractive selves came only in a bad shade of lipstick red or a neon that hurt my eyes. They smelled funny, too. I wanted no part of them until Louise Erdrich with one turn of a sentence transformed them into a flower I had to have.
"Clouds flew across the sun. Light shuddered in and out of the room, and the red mouths of the geraniums on the windowsill yawned." (page 81, The Master Butcher's Singing Club by Louise Erdrich. Harper Collins, 2003)
My library book club read The Master Butcher's Singing Club one winter when we still lived in Michigan. I didn't like it that much, but I could never forget this image from Delphine and Fidelis' first meeting. There, in a kitchen I imagined to be just like the one in the farmhouse where my mother grew up, something fantastical happened in the everyday world. Geraniums yawned not with fatigue, but because the power of this meeting was enough to ripple space and time. That spring I bought my first geranium. Red, of course.
Geraniums in Japan can be very expensive. Running anywhere from 300 to nearly 1,000 yen ($4 to nearly $12, give or take), they represent something of an investment. They overwinter well in Tokyo, sometimes standing three feet high with stems that ought to be in all fairness referred to as trunks. I resisted until I spotted a sickly one on sale for a mere 100 yen. A little nursing along, a pretty pot in a sunny spot, and two years later it yawns winter away on my windowsill and summer on the balcony. I feel certain I can never be without them again.
Ever decided to grow something because of a book? I'd love to hear the story!