It will never rain roses:
when we want to have more roses
we must plant more trees.
~ George Eliot
Like many bloggers, I receive emails here and there from readers. Electronic correspondence leading to connections that, at times, leads to friendships. A few such emails stick out. Not too long ago I received an email from a woman who had been married to an individual that I had written about. I had found her late husband’s grave fascinating. Fortunately, I had done my research so I knew a little bit of the back story and was able to share it; but, to have her reach out to me so graciously was more than humbling. It was such a personal, intimate correspondence. I tread lightly in cemeteries; they’re places we leave our hearts.
In February, I received a very different email from one of the producers of PlantPOP, a film crew dedicated to telling stories about plants and people. The producer, Kristin, had stumbled across my blog and decided to reach out. She was one of the first readers who immediately *got* the metaphor of my blog.
“Mixing gardening with goth is a refreshing twist on the usual garden blog I find. The twist is unique, and yet it isn’t a stretch – they totally match each other. It’s more than just cemetery flowers, but an overall philosophy about the cycle of life and death… not just a blog, not just a hobby, or a look.”
I even had to add a tagline to my blog header because some readers were not quite sure where I was going. This blog is all about how some plants & flowers, creepy things, and the dead brought me back to life. I’m quite serious about this.
But, this isn’t intended to be an existential post. I started thinking about metamorphosis and connections this evening because my copy of The Haunted Garden: Death and Transfiguration in the Folklore of Plants by Sheryl Humphrey arrived. Simultaneously, thanks to the RVA Horror Book Club Facebook group, I discovered a new horror novel, The Vegetarian: A Novel by Han Kang which was Longlisted for the 2016 Man Booker International Prize, and described as “a beautiful, unsettling novel about rebellion and taboo, violence and eroticism, and the twisting metamorphosis of a soul.” Downloaded to my Kindle- Check! (Which is completely me being in denial of my stack of papers that need to be graded and the 2 ½ weeks left of the semester- Oy!)
First, Sheryl Humphrey’s The Haunted Garden: Death and Transfiguration in the Folklore of Plants is a short collection of mysterious old botanical myths and legends. In her introduction, Humphrey’s writes,
“In my readings in mythology, folklore, and gardening I have come across myriad references to plants associated with tales of death, ghosts, and people transforming into flowers or trees. These tales are not about deaths caused by poisonous plants. Rather, they are strange stories and legends in which plants are intertwined with a human’s passage to another state of being” (Humphrey 6).
This passage reminded me of the bromeliad that saved my life. If you click the link, you can read all about her and even see pictures of the very first plant who let me know that things were going to change and that life was going to be okay. That was August 6, 2009. (Thank you obsessive need to post pictures on Facebook!) The thing that is so great about the story is that I basically bought a plant that was dying because the flower looked weird. Bromeliads flower and then they die…It’s their last hoorah! Yet, right before their final demise, they give you “pups”, new baby plants. In 2010, I learned how to “split” pups from the mother plant and how to replant them. It was the very first time that I had grown anything; and, I desperately needed it to work. When it did, I was a completely changed woman. I didn't exactly change into a bromeliad but I certainly felt as I had its spirit inside me.
Humphrey’s book is a quick read, just 75 pages, filled with cultural collections of plants and people who turn into trees… which oddly connected to The Vegetarian novel that I will be reading.
It also reminds me of Joseph Campbell telling the story of Isis and Osiris. Basically, Osiris grows into a tree but I’ll let Campbell tell the story.
I love these stories; I love transformation. I love rebirth. I love that when I planted this peony two years ago that I had no idea that a pumpkin patch was going to completely take over the same area and smother her out… but then here she comes. Plants fight; plants take back; plants resurrect. I’m so grateful for all of that.