Saturday, July 2, 2011
There are Limits
There are limits to what you can imagine. I never imagined this daylily when I crossed SERENGETI SUMMER with QUEST FOR ATLANTIS. I didn't know what would happen, but wanted to find out. Serengeti Summer is a radiant orange and yellow blend, standing tall, full-formed, ruffled, something Van Sellers shouted about, and so I up and bought it from him.
Quest for Atlantis came as a bonus plant from Bonnie Holley. It's a unique orange daylily by Jeff Corbett, who lives in the vicinity of the Holleys in northern California. It bloomed well here, grew as if born here, so I thought I'd see what would happen if I crossed orange on orange, fine on fine.
If fate should decree that this plant will only make four or five flowers in a season, I will take them all!
There are limits to what you can imagine. Here is what made me think of this theme. Kathy and I just had lunch at Chimi's, our current favorite Mexican restaurant nearby. I ordered Burritos Verde. I wanted to recall my favorite lunch from 35 years ago in Santa Fe. I'd drive down Cerillos Road from the College of Santa Fe, where I worked, to Flora's Mexican Cafe, and I'd invariably order a beef burito with green chile sauce. In Santa Fe, the green sauce is a light green chile stew, with little bits of pork, potatoes, and diced green chiles.
I asked our waiter if their green sauce had diced chiles. He said no, it was a concoction involving tomatillos, which is a world away from green chiles. He asked if I would like to try an off-menu hot relish they make for themselves back in the kitchen, invested with jalapenos and habaneros. I opted for that and used it sparingly as a topping on my burritos.
The basic burrito flavor at Chimi's was a dead ringer for the burritos I remembered at Flora's, but the tomatillo sauce was tasteless and the habanero relish overpowered everything with burn.
But then, I think the truth is, you can't imagine what I'm talking about if you have not savored an authentic Northern New Mexico beef burrito with green chile sauce at Flora's Cafe in the same era I did, and perhaps at the same age and in the same frame of mind about flavor, location, air, and sky.
There is a limit to what you can imagine.
Enjoy this seedling of mine while I spin a tale that came to me some years ago and gained an embellishment or two over dinner with friends the other night. The seedling is BRIDGETON FINESSE x TOWARD THE BLUE. Bridgeton Finesse went to charm school, while Toward the Blue is a painter trained at the Rhode Island School of Design, dressed in worn bluejeans and a black tee shirt, smoking a cigarette while riding a Harley on the Interstate.
So imagine this:
The woods around you are eerily quiet, as quiet at the feathers on the owl that is watching you. You don't see the owl, and you don't know what you're doing in the woods. You just woke up there, standing up, with a weak flashlight in your right hand, and you are moving down a sandy dirt path wide enough for an old car, toward what you don't know, but you can tell you're descending, and it's a little chilly and damp. The flashlight is hardly any good to you. The battery is about shot; the weak light flickers, and you're spooked by the absence of any sound. In fact, you realize you cannot hear your feet and can't tell whether you are wearing shoes, sandals, or bedroom slippers, and you can't see your feet because the flashlight just quit. You can't see the sky, and you don't know what time it is or how you got here.
The owl that is watching you specializes in patience. His meditative state infuses the creatures of the woods with blissful, if instinctive, purpose, but tonight they make no sound, and neither do you. It is as if all of creation is holding its breath in a moment charged with "next." You stop short of the thing in the path that will trip you because you can't see well enough to continue. It's not exactly pitch black...there is some smidgeon of light from the firmament above, which you can't see because of dense overgrowth, but you have a vague sense of being not just in a woods, but in a space through which you can move without walking into spider webs or thorny things. There may or may not be horse droppings, bear dung, or cow pies on the path ahead; you can't see ahead, and I simply don't know. It's possible, though, that squishy, smelly things of some kind are on the path.
What sort of squishy, smelly things, I wonder. Corpses? Old burritos tossed away by urgent high school lovers earlier in the day when the summer sun streamed through the pines overhead and warmed first her bare skin and then his? Although I have suggested it's summer, it may not be. Maybe it's a warm time in April, or maybe it's Indian Summer. You don't know, because in addition to not knowing how you got there or what time it is, you don't know what season of the year it is or, even, where it is. For all you know, you could be in the piney woods outside of New Egypt, New Jersey as easily as you could be on the bluffs of the Mississippi River in western Illinois outside of Edwardsville or in the woods on either side of the Current River in Southern Missouri near Doniphan. If you haven't been in any of those places, how in the world can you imagine what scene I've set for you here, or her?
Who was she? I mean the urgent high school girl who felt the warmth of the sun on her bosom as her boyfriend lifted her tricot top off her, having lowered the top of his convertible. You may be or have been her classmate now or decades ago. The odd thing about this night is that you don't know the time, the place, or even how old your memories are. They could be, all of them, only minutes old, and you could, possibly, be the urgent boy who hastened to get half-naked with the winsome high school girl hours or decades earlier. All you really know is that it's dark and quiet, and what I know, but won't tell you, is that it's exactly as quiet as the feathers on the owl that is watching you decide whether to take another step down the path.
For the life of you, you don't know why the thought of a bare-breasted girl and shirtless boy in the front seat of a convertible flitted through the confusion that is your present moment. Wondering if her eyes are hazel or brown, and if the boy is her first love or one of many, you make the fateful choice of continuing down the path, and you trip and fall. I'm sorry I can't imagine what happens next. I have been distracted by the idea of the convertible. Is it his father's or hers? Is it nearly out of gas, and will they have to walk out of the woods rather than drive? Was the owl asleep during their half-hour in the dappled shade (of pine or of oak I can't say)? Was that a question or a statement, or both?
You have fallen, and your wrist hurts bad. You're not in shock, but you're confused. The entire area is as quiet as a feather, and you didn't even hear the sound of your own self-pitying groan when you sprained or broke your wrist. Now, as you rise, you realize the path is flat and you don't know which way you came or went. For all you know, something will make you stumble and fall in the dark if you move on, and yet you feel an urgent need to move out of this situation to something you can grasp with your mind, as your sprained or broken hand won't be grasping anything at all for the next four to seven weeks, depending. The owl that has been watching you is smiling as he, or she, remembers the song he or she heard from the convertible's radio earlier in the day or century, when the boy and girl enjoyed the feeling of skin on skin, something about "every breath you take, every move you make, I'll be watching you."