Monday, February 15, 2010


Wishful thinking

I know I can't wish spring here any faster, but I practiced some magical thinking anyway while ordering some garden seeds this afternoon, and seed potatoes, and onion sets. And in my post-Pepys reading free-for-all I've included an even-tempered gardening book: Some Ancient Gentlemen: Being an Examination of Certain People, Plants, and Gardens by Tyler Whittle (Taplinger 1966), which I bought recently at a used bookshop nearby because it looked rather odd.

Exhibit one, an old gift inscription scrawled inside the front cover. It reads, in part: "This is an ideal bedside book - gentle, soothing, yet moderately informative." Who am I to ignore such a pointed directive (even if it was written to someone named Rosalind in 1971)? This sounds like exactly the book I need at this precise moment of my life.

Exhibit two, the blurbs on the back of the jacket. The first, from a woman at the New York Botanical Garden, assures us that the book "...will appeal to sophisticated amateur gardeners who enjoy good reading of high literary quality." Well! And a second, from a fellow at the London Times, who says that the book is "...unlike most books on gardening: informative, amusing, scholarly, and unorthodox, with the wit and very definite tastes and prejudices of the author punctuating every page." Well, well!

Exhibit three, the author's short biography, inside the back flap of the dust jacket. The author's fame apparently rests in part on "...receiving the accolade from Arthur Calder-Marshall for 'prose as well smoked as Bacon's.'" I do not know Arthur Calder-Marshall from a turnip in the ground, but I do tend to over-trust those British gentlemen hereditarily lucky enough to sport hyphens in their names. And besides, what a great simile.

I rest my case. I'm a third of the way through the book, and thus far it is living up to its initial promise of oddness. I quite like it.

But back to spring for a moment. Besides ordering seeds, I also took a long walk outside today when the sun was warmest, and the nearly-bare ground on the roadside was actually beginning to thaw and smell like something other than cold and frost. Even though snow is in the forecast for tomorrow, today I think I almost wished it away.

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