Human Flower Project
Thursday, April 29, 2010
May’s Lap of Lush-ery
Waverly Fitzgerald sings three Mayflowers and will strike a chord with every nymph and satyr.
Mai bowle, Germany’s spring drink, made with sweet woodruff
By Waverly Fitzgerald
February 14 has staked its claim on love and sexuality, but an older, far more ecologically erotic season comes now – May Day. In the Northern Hemisphere, buds are at the full. Sweaters come off and the sap is rising. For centuries May has been synonymous with flowers and all the ardor that comes with them.
In the third century, the Romans celebrated the Floralia for six days beginning on April 28. People put on their most colorful garments, decking themselves and their animals in flowers.
The first mention of May Day in England comes from around 1240 – with a note of disdain. The Bishop of Lincoln complains of priests who join the “games which they call the bringing-in of May.” Town records, literature and the accounts of courtly life refer to the custom of bringing green branches and flowers in from the woods to celebrate the beginning of summer.
Edmund Spenser writing in 1579 described the custom thus:
Youth’s folks now flocken in everywhere
To gather May baskets and smelling brere
And home they hasten the posts to dight
And all the Kirk pillars ere daylight,
With hawthorn buds and sweet eglantine,
And garlands of roses and sops in wine.
Art & Media • Cooking • Culture & Society • Medicine • Secular Customs • Permalink
Friday, April 23, 2010
Elves of South Carolina
A collision 300 million years ago created the peculiar but ideal environment for many now-rare plants. Conserving the habitat for elves takes a giant effort.
Forty Acre Rock: A rare stone outcropping in South
Carolina’s Lynches River Valley is home to rarer flora
Map: Wiki/Human Flower Project
Natural conservation requires supernatural forces. The demands of economic development encroach on speechless plants. And as the stew boils in debate over global warming (now euphemized as “climate change”), armadillos root northwards and polar bears hunt for ice.
In South Carolina, “supernatural” takes the form of social organization, i.e. work—the combined efforts of the legal experts, naturalists, conservation volunteers and and state officials. How do we know? An elf-advocate told us.
Earlier this week Lindsay Pettus, president of the Katawba Valley Land Trust, dropped some provocative photos through our inbox - plants the likes of which we’d never seen and stone outcroppings reminiscent of Enchanted Rock.
Lindsay is an expert at curiosity-fishing, and as usual we took the bait. What were these shiny red and white flowers, or were they actually jelly beans on cinnamon sticks?
Thursday, April 22, 2010
Raining Blooms on the Cortege
Throwing flowers to the prima ballerina—Yes. But what about to the deceased?
Flowers were cast onto the funeral cars of the late Polish President Lech Kaczynski and his wife Maria April 18. The couple and many others died April 10th in a plane crash near Smolensk, Russia.
Photo: Markus Schreiber, for AP
As the remains of Polish president Lech Kaczynski and his wife Maria Kaczynska arrived in Krakow Sunday, citizens paid tribute en route. Thousands stood by, and many of them tossed flowers onto the funeral cortege – a beautiful custom.
We’ve also seen photographs of this tradition in England and Belarus—never in the United States, though.
Tuesday, April 20, 2010
Some plants are conjurors. Take a look and climb the crystal stairs or slip down a rabbit hole.
This is a Rorschach test:
Do you smell mint juleps? Do you hear a put-down or the rustle of hoop skirts? Is this a giant butterfly about to land on a swastika? Can you find the imperial rabbit?
Cyndy Clark sent this photo along after a trip to the U.S. National Arboretum in Washington, D.C., last weekend.
“Apparently there are 5 peak days in the year for the gardens and we hit one of those days,” C. writes. “See for yourself with the attached photos. A must visit for any trip.”
Her son, Sean, retreats there at cherry blossom time, close to his home on the Hill and much less crowded than the Tidal Basin. Last weekend, there was a special sale of koi, but even so, C. reports, the arboretum wasn’t crowded. She was especially taken by the lace bark pine tree —“a must see” – and reveled in the lilacs, bonsai, and dogwoods, as well as “old columns taken from the Capitol, standing in the middle of a field like a Greek ruin!”