What a Wonder-less World

Francis Schaeffer once remarked that the depth of a culture’s soul can be inferred from it’s degree of artistic aspirations. If gardening is the pursuit of such expression – and what else should we call a discipline built on mediums of color and texture – than what does a typical front garden suggest about the shallow proportions of a 21st century soul?

Granted one must allow for the  impediments of life; the hallowed exhaustion which young children bring or the aches and pains of old age; and certainly one should err on the side of restraint while attempting to discern ideology in a shrub. Still, out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks – or perhaps in this case, the hand gardens.

Who could blame my surprise then, when a typical stroll through horticultural no-man’s land was interrupted one day by the mauve nimbus of a nearby stand of excelsior foxgloves. Foxgloves have always been to me a kind of reassuring anachronism; a portal into fairyland that transmutes the most ho-hum residence into a gingerbread cottage, brimming with cage-fuls of plumpening German children.

I once had an idea that such whimsy could be domesticated – like those hopeless romantics who run through autumn forests with a beaker, hoping to bottle up and preserve the wild scents of decaying leaves. And so I purchased several foxglove varieties and arranged them amicably in full sun – but such enigmas rarely thrive thus exposed. Face to face with such unveiled glory they deflated, like a troupe of punctured ballerinas.

And yet, for those fey thumbs imbued with greener properties then my own, what healing virtues are afforded to you. What balm might these opportunities prove to the modern mind, which has little so patience for mystery. That mind which so carelessly weed-wacks a clump of nodding daisies in order to “clean up the place.”

We might hope a mind so long nourished on efficiency would emerge radiantly transformed – but all too often we discover a reverse metamorphosis has set in. As the pupae trembles and expands, we hold out breathe until, suddenly, it deflates like an overripe puffball. A familiar worm, now spent and embittered, returns to munching leaves instead of soaring on the heights.

Standing there in front of those foxgloves, I felt a little like Dorothy, whisked away to Oz in a tornado. What an inconvenience for that poor girl. The wicked witch, the flying monkeys, that field of stupefying poppies. And yet she returned with new eyes. Eyes that, having donned the emerald spectacles, no longer saw just a plain farm somewhere in Kansas – but a tin man, a wizard, and some ruby slippers.

Too much digitalis will stop your heart, but a little can make it stronger; in this wonder stunted age, perhaps we could all use a nibble.

Benjamin Inglis, Media Assistant