Human Flower Project

Orrington, MAINE USA

flag flower bed

parker basket thumb
Princeton, MAINE USA

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Domestication, Under This Tree

The old trees of Cambridge and Oxford are riddled with association. How do you elude history and fall into the nature of nature?

image Jesus Green

Essay and photos by John Levett

I spent my career in primary education. I don’t miss what it became. I left teaching in 2003 and haven’t set foot into a school since.

If I were asked what I think of the changes that have taken place over the last decade I couldn’t give a coherent answer, no longer following beyond the headlines.

My dissociation with primary education came to me a few months back when I was passing by Park Street School in Cambridge. It’s a long-established church-aided school close by Jesus Green. In good weather the children use the Green as their playground. What took my ear as I walked past was the singing from the school hall.

Under the spreading chestnut tree,

Where I knelt upon my knee,

We were as happy as could be,

Under the spreading chestnut tree.

For those of my generation and before, the song will be familiar, not for its words but for the actions that go with it—the replacement of the word by the action (spread, chest, nut, tree). There’s a film of King George VI (he of the voice) doing the business at a scout camp. I recall it always dissolving into a confusion of arms, hands and elbows.

What made me pause that day was the surprise that ‘singing’ as nothing beyond its appreciation and fun still had a place within a primary school. I’d assumed that anything that didn’t make an instrumental contribution to capitalist accumulation had been stricken from the curriculum.

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Posted by Julie on 01/10 at 06:58 PM
Art & MediaCulture & SocietyGardening & LandscapePermalink

Saturday, January 07, 2012

Luffa: Wring in the New Year

Plant a garden of amazement this year and harvest a kitchen tool.

imageThe flower of Luffa aegyptiaca

Photo: Garden Life

By James H. Wandersee and Renee M. Clary

EarthScholars™ Research Group

How about a New Year’s resolution that’s actually an absorbing pleasure? This year, grow some garden plants that fascinate children. We suggest that you begin by rekindling your own sense of wonder: raising a plant that imitates a sea animal.

We all know that sponges are animals that live and grow beneath the sea. Sponge divers retrieve natural sponges for human applications. There are over 5,000 species of sponge animals, freshwater and marine, but only 15 species have fibrous “skeletons” that are absorbent and soft enough for people to use. The divers cut these loose from the sea floor (provided they meet legal size limits), then clean and sun-dry them.

If you want to interact with real sponge-fishers and purchase animal sponges newly harvested from the Gulf of Mexico, we suggest you visit the sponge docks at Tarpon Springs, Florida. This city boasts the US’s highest percentage of Greek-Americans and is, historically, a sponge-fishing community. There you can even go sponge-fishing on a working boat with a professional diver.

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Posted by Julie on 01/07 at 11:09 AM
Gardening & LandscapePermalink

Thursday, January 05, 2012

Havel’s Flower Cortege

For the Czech Republic, the loss of Vaclav Havel is reminiscent of the mourning for Lincoln in the U.S.


Floral tributes for former Czech president Havel cover the funeral boat in Decin, 1/1/12

Photo: CTK

To honor Abraham Lincoln, there was the famous funeral train that carried his body for two weeks from Washington, D.C., to Springfield, Illinois, in the spring of 1865. The outpouring of flowers along the route changed, among other things, floristry for decades to come, as the American public now had an impressive model of how to mourn.

Vaclav Havel was assuredly the same sort of heroic leader in the Czech Republic, and at his death December 18, 2011, the floral tributes overflowed.

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Posted by Julie on 01/05 at 07:18 PM
Culture & SocietySecular CustomsPermalink

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Curtain Rises on BOTANICA

A new play questions the human mastery of plant life in a “creepy futuristic black comedy.”


The Janitor (Chet Mazur) gets intimate with a flowering plant in BOTANICA, a play by Jeff Jackson and Jim Findlay.

Photo: Paula Court

“If frowzy little houseplants cry

For French Surrealists,

Why, oh, why can’t I?...”

Not a lyric from BOTANICA, soon to premiere in New York City, but we offer producer Joel Bassin the lines anyway. Thanks, Joel, for letting us know that this Human Flower Project will begin previews later this month. The play opens February 1.

Written by Jeff Jackson and Jim Findlay, BOTANICA takes place in a sealed “humanterrarium,” where two plant scientists are busy with experiments. But it appears to be the research facility’s janitor who’s really plumbing the mysteries of botany. The caretaker, played by Chet Mazur, stays up late reading French surrealist poetry and his own erotic verse to the green subjects.

Bassin explains, “Initially the experiments seem to demonstrate an astonishing scope of plant consciousness, but eventually the botanists hit a dead end. They decide to bring the janitor into their research.” What happens next? You’ll have to see the play to find out, though Bassin promises a taste of “chaos.” 

The play includes literary works by George Bataille and Louis Aragon, and draws too from Peter Tompkins and Christopher Bird’s 1973 best seller The Secret Life of Plants as well as the scientific discoveries of Jagadish Chandra Bose.

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Posted by Julie on 01/04 at 11:02 PM
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