Tag Archives: tulips

My Triumphant Return

Mark Twain said… “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.”  I don’t think that is true.

Having just returned from ten days of wandering through beautiful gardens, consuming magnificent beers in ancient Trappist Monasteries and stuffing myself with exquisitely prepared meals in gorgeous locations I find that, if anything, I’m more of a prejudiced bigot now than when I left.

Popeye The Sailor said… “I am what I am and that’s all what I am” and I’m going to have to agree with him on that.  Standing in line for one hour and forty-five minutes at the airport just outside the capital of the once greatest nation on earth just to get to see a Customs Agent who treated me like I was an agent of some Al-Qaeda sleeper cell brought it all back in spades to old Mrs. N. like the snap of a rubber band up the side of your head.  I’m home.

Just moments before I was a part of a magic act that involved me and a chair that flew through the air at over 500 miles an hour.  I returned from a land that was flatter than flat, manicured, and inhabited by people who were not obese, did not drive pick-up trucks and did not dedicate their lives to the endless accumulation of “stuff” that someone on TV told them would make them happy, but, never did.

For a full week and a half I didn’t see a Jesus fish sticker on the back of a car.  I didn’t see a pick-up truck.  I didn’t see a State Trooper, County Sheriff or local police car lurking behind a billboard… I didn’t even see a billboard.  Never spotted a fat kid with a video game in hand.  Not once did a stranger come up to me and ask if I had heard “The Good News” about Jesus.  I saw no litter in the streets.  Public transportation was clean, fast and ubiquitous.  Compared to the Capitalist Paradise I call home it was… different in ways I admit I was not quite prepared for.  It’s going to take Old Mrs. N. some time to process all this now that she is home.  I will be out in the garden this weekend.  There will be lots of time alone to think, to sterpulate, and to go over what I have experienced and what, perhaps, I have learned.  It’s too soon to try to make sense of it all now.  To early to go jumping to conclusions without having lengthy conversations with myself first, out among the magnolia leaves and seedlings.  It all hasn’t jelled yet.  It isn’t ready to be handled, let alone handed to anyone else.

I can give you this.  I learned that The Netherlands is a country that was made.  Only 7% of the land that makes up the country was there to begin with.  The rest was under water, or, under water at least part of the time.  As the saying goes… “God made the world, but, the Dutch made Holland”.   They did it over centuries by digging canals, building dikes and using over ten thousand windmills to pump out the water.  In the process a culture developed that put a high value on engineering skill, hard work and never, ever, disobeying the rules.  Showing off is considered exceptionally bad form and children are taught from the very beginning of their education that rules are meant to be followed without exception.  Life in The Netherlands is nothing at all like life in these United States.  I mean… Nothing at all.

I’m back now and so much of what I see and hear seems stupid.  Not that it didn’t seem stupid before, but, it’s even worse now knowing that here we sit, telling each other that Americans are the “exceptional” people and that everything we do is not only better, but, the only right way to do things.

Again and again and again Mrs. N. finds herself embarrassed at what it means to be human.  The other side of the coin is drinking beer in a Trappist Monastery…

Wandering through a garden of 7,000,000 tulips…

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Walking the streets of ancient towns that are clean and lively…

Drinking beer again…

and again…

and again…

Now, Mrs. N. doesn’t want any of you to get the mistaken notion that all she did in the Netherlands was drink beer and stuff her face with good food.  That would be far from the truth.  So, I will close this little piece of nonsense, this little slice of the absurdity that is my life with a picture of how one trains a tree to grow into the shape of a cube.  No doubt, like myself, many of you have always wanted to know.   Take a good look.

Now you do.

Kiss, kiss

Mrs. N.

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Mrs. N. (goes on tour)

Mrs. N. is busy packing her suitcase for her upcoming European tour.  In a little over a week it’s off to The Netherlands for the Spring Tulip Festival and a visit to Keukenhof Park, the worlds largest flower garden.  Anyone who has read anything on this blog knows full well how Mrs. N. feels about her flowers.  If we have time, since we are in the area anyway, we will try to make a short visit to Holland.

Mrs. N. chose to begin her “Tour of the Absurd” in The Netherlands because it was the home of “Tulip Mania”.  Back in 1637,  a single tulip bulb sold for more than 10 times the annual income of a skilled craftsman.  You have to wonder what they were thinking.  It is generally considered to be the first recorded speculative bubble.  The Dutch, it appears, had never heard the phrase… “What goes up must come down.”  They have that in common with Wall Street Bankers.

The people of The Netherlands are known to be an unfriendly people.  They are also known for their “Coffee Shops” that openly sell dozens of different kinds of marijuana, hashish and hallucinogenic mushrooms.  Mrs. N. is having a very hard time understanding how a population of people could simultaneously be unfriendly AND be enjoying the benefits of inhabiting what should be a perpetual Woodstock.  Something is amiss.  Even the popular phrase… (“You know what they say about the Dutch… they don’t amount to much.”)  doesn’t explain this curious phenomena.  Mrs. N. intends to get to the bottom of this no matter how many “Coffee Shops” she has to visit, or, how long the research takes.

From there it will be off to Heidelberg, Germany to visit the childhood home of the greatest epistemologist of all time.

René Descartes in an early example of the internalist approach to justification wrote, because the only method by which we perceive the external world is through our senses, and that, because the senses are not infallible, we should not consider our concept of knowledge to be infallible.   Sergeant Hans Schultz, going one critical step further, fully recognized the fallibility of our senses and stated the obvious.  He is widely considered today to be the Father of the Anti-evolutionary Psychology Movement.  It is also believed that Ernest Becker’s Pulitzer Prize winning book, “The Denial of Death” was but the culmination of work originally begun by Hans Schultz.  Both men were known to be avid bowlers.

After paying our respects to the work and memory of Professor Schultz it will be on to Dusseldorf and the Neanderthal Museum.  Neanderthals had something called an occipital bun.  An occipital bun is a prominent bulge, or projection, of the occipital bone at the back of the skull. Occipital buns are important in scientific descriptions of classic Neanderthal crania.

When Mrs. N. was a teenager she knew a person with an occipital bun.  He, lets call him Rudy, was 18 years old while the rest of us were younger.  18 was the magic age for purchasing beer and hard liquor in New York State.  New York State was 3 miles away at the time.   Rudy, occipital bun and all, became a very valuable person in spite of his curiously shaped head.  Indeed children can be cruel to those who don’t quite fit in, and jokes like… “Hey, do you have to get an estimate before you get a haircut?” must have stung.   But, that’s life when you come into the world with a head that looks like a watermelon, I guess.  Unfortunately for Rudy the rest of us eventually turned 18 too and he found himself in the same position the tulip speculators did when the market went bust.  My visit to the Neanderthal Museum in Dusseldorf will be a way of paying my respects to an unfortunate individual who provided me and my teenage comrades with beer and hard liquor during our formative years.  I was thoroughly snookered on alcohol he procured for us the night I met my mate of going on 45 years.  If it were not for the liquid courage he provided I might never have made that first move that resulted in a wonderful marriage.  In return for his kindness he was made fun of.  There was no justice.  No one was equal then.  No one is equal today.  No one will be equal tomorrow.

Rousseau tells us…  “The one who sang or danced the best, the handsomest, the strongest, the most adroit, or the most eloquent became the most highly considered; and that was the first step toward inequality…. Social imbalances occur because of differences in personal merit and the recognition of that merit by others.”

Immanual Kant wrote…  “From the crooked wood of which man is made, nothing quite straight can be built.”…

Sigmund Freud wrote…  “The tragedy of evolution is that it created a limited animal with unlimited horizons.”…

There remain a few days before my departure.  Should any of my readers have suggestions with regard to my itinerary, please feel free to comment.  …And NO, I won’t bring you back any seeds.

Because I don’t want to end up here

Kiss, kiss

Mrs. N.

 

 

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Spring

It has been an amazing spring here at the foot of the Blue Ridge in Virginia.  One of those Springs where everything goes right and all my old friends in the garden show up on time to remind me why it is that gardening is such an important part of my life.  I have not been writing.  I have been giddy.  It’s all I can do to sit here and type now as the darkness lifts and the mockingbirds sing back and forth to each other of the coming of a new day.  At no time of the year am I so alive.  May is my elixir.

I am the proud caretaker of three enormous and ancient magnolia trees.  Flowers as big as your head and large rubbery leaves that drop in May to make way for the new.  People see them as messy because they do drop at a time when most gardeners have no wish to see their nicely tended earth and flower beds littered with old leaves.  It is labor intensive to keep things neat and any gardener in his/her right mind wouldn’t stake out gardening territory beneath giant magnolias.  In my case, my rake and my long stick with a nail at the end provide a kind of comfort, a kind of lesson in life that for some reason I need every year at this time.  My magnolias are my “philosophy” trees.  I have named them Plato, Socrates and Aristotle, although, what their real names are they keep a secret between themselves.  I think of them as such because they drive the lesson home that nothing is ever done and that life itself is a process, an exercise in doing what has to be done.

I have no doubt that my neighbors think me mad.  One simply does not create intricate gardens beneath magnolia trees.  They are simply too messy.  To this I say yes, they are, and that is precisely why I do it.  They are my Nunnery and they are my Zen Monastery.  They are the beneficent engines of the entropic, mindless, work that sets my mind free to wander the universe in time spent out of time.  I get muddy and dirt cakes beneath my nails, gnats kamikaze into my eyes and I twist and reach to spear that last elusive leaf hiding among the hostas or the tulips or the enormous bluebells and there I meet a toad.  All the while the birds sing and dart above my head, making their nests to bring forth the next generation.  It is life to me and there in my garden I am in it in a way that pleases me like nothing else.  In May it IS my art and when the last of the nights fallen leaves is tucked away in my barrel I stop and admire my work.  Then, as if on call, the morning wind blows and a thousand more leaves flutter to the ground.  I laugh.  My day has begun as my philosophical friends teach me once again that nothing is ever done and in that life’s real beauty resides.

It rained Saturday, so I read a book.  I would like to recommend it, seriously, to two people I know from this internet blogging world of ours.  Robert Redus and AnitaNH… listen up, this is for you both.  If you have not already, I highly recommend that you read “Just Kids” by Patti Smith.  Besides utterly magnificent writing there is something important in there for you both.  Don’t ask me how I know.

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