March 30, 2022 Henry Wotton, Paul-Marie Verlaine, Vincent van Gogh, The Plant List, Writing Wild by Kathryn Aalto, and Charles Lathrop-Pack
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1568 Birth of Henry Wotton, English writer, diplomat, and politician.
Henry celebrated our relationships with gardens and landscapes. He especially enjoyed gardens that made one think or offered a surprise.
Henry served as an Ambassador to Venice, and during his time there, he fell in love with Italian gardens. Henry's concept of a "garden of surprise" was inspired by the gardens he saw in Italy. In his Elements of Architecture (1624), Henry discusses what it was like to walk through an Italian garden:
I have seen a garden into which the first [entry point] was a high walk like a [terrace], from whence might be taken a general view of the whole plot below, but rather in a delightful confusion...
From this the Beholder descending any steps, was afterwards conveyed again... to various entertainments of his [scent] and sight... every one of these diversities, was as if he had [been] magically transported to a new garden.
1844 Birth of Paul-Marie Verlaine, French poet.
He's remembered for his work with the Symbolist and Decadent movements. His poem, Clair de Lune, begins with the line, "Your soul is a sealed garden," and inspired Claude Debussy ("deh·byoo·see") to write his own 'Clair de lune, the work for which he is now most famous.
Paul once wrote,
Here are fruits, flowers, leaves and branches, and here is my heart which beats only for you.
1853 Birth of Vincent van Gogh, Dutch post-impressionist painter.
After his death, he became a top-selling figure in the history of Western art. Bold colors and brushwork characterized his work.
Vincent found inspiration in the natural world, and he once said,
If you truly love Nature, you will find beauty everywhere.
Vincent was also a lover of flowers and gardens, and he also said,
For one's health as you say, it is very necessary to work in the garden and see the flowers growing.
At the end of his life, Van Gogh suffered from depression, an unsuccessful painting career, and poverty. He committed a slow and painful suicide at 37 by shooting himself in the chest.
He died two days later beside a stack of his sunflower canvases. He said his last words to his brother Theo,
The sadness will last forever.
The legacy of Van Gogh's 2,100 pieces of art was much brighter than he ever expected.
In March of 1987, his painting titled Vase with Fifteen Sunflowers was sold by Sotheby's in London for $39.85 million, more than three times the highest price ever paid at the time for a painting at auction.
2003 On this day, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram shared an article called, What's in a name? Deciding the name of every plant could take decades and require a huge effort by Stephanie Simon. The article revealed that
the Missouri Botanical Garden is teaming up with botanists worldwide on a 10-year $100-million effort to standardize plant names.
The article shared the forecast for finishing the project, saying
the project’s leaders’ plans for... the database [is] “45 compiler years.” One note says “52 imager years.”
At the bottom there’s a final tally: They will need a staff of 32 for at least a decade just to compile and input the information.
That’s not counting the botanists who will do all the research Missouri scientists will be working in formal collaboration with the two other top botanical research centers in the world: the New York Botanical Garden and the Kew Botanical Gardens near London.
Incredibly, the project was completed way ahead of schedule at the end of 2010. At the time, The Plant List included 1.25 million scientific plant names.
Grow That Garden Library™ Book Recommendation
This book came out in the summer of 2020, and the subtitle is Women Poets, Ramblers, and Mavericks Who Shape How We See the Natural World.
This is such a good book, and I've been waiting to recommend it on the show.
Kathryn herself was inspired to write this book after stumbling on a book written with all-male voices. Kathryn wanted to find the female voices and add their perspective on the natural world. In all, there are about 75 women that are talked about in Kathryn's book.
Now, the goal behind curating all of these pieces was to help us deepen our connection to and understanding of the natural world. Some of these writers are some of my old favorites, like Mary Oliver, Vita Sackville West, Mary Austin, Susan Fenimore Cooper. But then there are also new voices like Helen MacDonald, Andrea Wulf, Amy Liptrot, and Elizabeth Rush. There are 25 of these women whose works are shared in full in this book.
I love what Kathryn wrote in the introduction. She says,
Much of this book was researched and penned outside - mountain climbing, mudlarking, canoeing, beachcombing, gardening, hiking, and birdwatching. I retraced the footsteps of those who have passed on, some of whom wrote anonymously or were chastised for daring to venture off without male chaperones. I walked and talked with living authors. I read original 19th-century journals, letters, essays, and books. I held tangible personal objects. I searched the faces and old photographs. I listened to historians, archivists, and experts. I attended live author readings and listened to recordings. I passed through 200 years of women's history through nature writing.
Compilation books like this are excellent because Kathryn has done the heavy lifting for us. She has sifted through all of this nature writing, and she has brought us the best of the best - an excellent sampling of women writing about nature over the past two centuries.
I simply have to share two beautiful quotes that Kathryn includes at the top of the book.
The first is from Willa Cather in her 1913 book O Pioneers! She wrote,
Isn't it queer: there are only two or three human stories and they go on repeating themselves as fiercely as if they had never happened before; like the larks in this country, that have been singing the same five notes for over thousands of years.
And then there's this beautiful quote by Emily Dickinson in an 1885 letter that she wrote to Eugenia Hall.
I hope you love Birds too. It is economical. It saves going to heaven.
This book is chock full of great insights, quotes, and readings from women as marvelous as Willa Cather and Emily Dickinson.
This book is 288 pages of women finding joy in nature and then writing about it and sharing it.
You can get a copy of Writing Wild by Kathryn Aalto and support the show using the Amazon link in today's show notes for around $6.
1918 On this day, The Oregon Daily Journal out of Portland, Oregon, shared a front-page story with the headline, SLACKER IF HE PUTS BASEBALL STARTING TIME BACK ONE HOUR. President Pack of National War Garden Commission Severely Criticises [Baseball] Club Owner Who Plans to Add Extra Hour of Daylight That Could Be Used in Garden Work.
Charles Lathrop-Pack was president of the national war garden commission and was against baseball teams who were planning to change the start time of their games to take advantage of the brand new daylight saving plan. Pack said,
A move like this will take thousands of hours of time from gardens. It will doubtless mean many extra dollars in the box office, but it is certainly a violation of the spirit of the law.
In other media, Charles reminded both leagues that,
[the] law was intended to increase the daylight usefulness in war work, and was not intended to give extra hours for recreation...
Slackers of the worst type is the brand placed upon baseball league owners or managers who plan to move down the scheduled time of starting games this Summer.
But the historian Michael O'Malley noted in his book Keeping Watch (1996) that as president of the War Garden Commission, Charles Lathrop Pack was essentially the head of
[a] lobbying organization for the makers of garden products—tools, seeds, fertilizers, canning, and preserving equipment... [and he] stood to gain dramatically from any increase in wartime gardening.
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And remember: For a happy, healthy life, garden every day.
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