"It's certain that fine women eat
A crazy salad with their meat
Whereby the Horn of plenty is undone."
William Butler Yeats, A Prayer for my Daughter
At the most primal level, a garden is a refuge from the world. It’s the place where Man meets Nature, and where all the first and endlessly variable and complex relations between the two begin. The Garden of Eden however, was not such a place. In Eden, everything was perfect and unchanging. Since the fall, in earthly gardens, man contends with the endless cycles of birth, death and rebirth. Perfection, if it’s ever reached, lasts mere moments in a garden. A flower at the moment of it’s most lovely bloom, is lovely precisely because we recognize that like all that lives, it will die.
Anyway, I’m not so sure I like the idea of a heaven in the hereafter being a perfect and unchanging garden. Immortal gardens would, I think, lose something vital if they didn’t embody the energy of what we call the Cycle of Frickin’ Life. Winter rain is as much-appreciated part of this cycle. We actually had some hail during a particularly hard rain the other day. - you can see it on the ground in the top picture. In the second picture, Lily is checking out this view from the safety and warmth of the love seat in the living room.
In front of the stone lantern, are the two thin stalks of the red-trunked, green-leaf Japanese maple. In the background, to the right of the old olive tree, you can see the bare branches of the red-leaved Japanese maple, silhouetted in the wet driveway beyond. These trees, including a third out of the picture, were moved from the tsukubai garden in the back yard where the two older trees had staggered through harsh dry summers for about ten years, and were on the point of giving up. Japanese maples are one of the inappropriate plants I insist on keeping alive in my yard against all odds. I’ve given up on lilacs, lilies of the valley and most violets. But I insist that these trees occupy a position of respect in the crazy salad of my garden.
The horn of plenty Yeats is talking about is the myth of the cornucopia, that overflowed with whatever the holder wanted. For example, imagine if you will, an endless abundance of cheesy-poofs as you sat by the fire watching old movies on TV. Then, if you wished for linoleum in a green and white pattern, the cornucopia would presumably provide enough to replace the stained living room carpet, including extra to allow for measuring and cutting mistakes. Is Yeats saying that wishing for such a crazy salad would cause the horn to malfunction? Would it perhaps spit out some malformed green and white cheesey poofs, or cheese-flavored floor tiles? Is he saying women in particular are inclined to prefer such a crazy salad in their lives? Is he saying it’s ok for me to try to cultivate Japanese maples in the harsh Zone 9 climate?
Even if he thinks this would be crazy, he refers to such ladies as “fine women” and that is how I chose to interpret his letter to his daughter. He’s saying, be sure to eat your meat, but also to enjoy your own personal crazy salad, and accept the imperfection and mortality of your garden. Good advice.