“One circumstance tormented me then: Namely, that no one else was like me, and I was like no one else. I am only one, and they are all.”
― Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Notes from Underground
I walk down the side of the road weighed down by a couple of bags of groceries and an adventure backpack full of all the needs that I could possibly have on my evening adventure. Traffic zips by me at a dangerous pace, however I feel like I’m in a botanical wonderland. Eighteen wheeled monsters fly past me at a ridiculously fast pace going down a 9 percent grade, distracted drivers dip across the outside line getting precariously close to where I wander. I’m aware of the traffic, I’m aware of the danger, but at the same time I’m delightfully aware of where I am and what I’m experiencing. The traffic is as good as non existent to me, I’m in a happy place.
I watch the blonde colored wild grasses dance in the wind that the cars passing by provide them and realize the diversity of each and every one of them. I can get totally nerdy about genus species on each of them, but that’s not where I’m going with this. I’m not in the mood to give horticulture classes anymore, it’s more about learning about how to survive in the diversity of culture much like the shit on the side of the road survives. How many times do you hear somebody has a “black thumb” or “I kill a plant by looking at it.” Nobody nurtures the plants on the roadside and they get along just fine, so what’s the point? They might die because they don’t like you.
For over a decade and almost a half I’ve been dealing with plants, and in all honesty, I think I’ve learned more philosophically about myself from plants than I ever have from philosophy itself. I’m not going down an agnostic “nothing exists” tangent, it’s just I guess I relate to them. Take for instance the weak kid that gets picked on and becomes emotionally fragile because of being bullied – I think of those plants that are sweat shop grown with roots that will never grow and are thrown into a scary new place that they aren’t prepared for. The child can’t emotionally take it all on, nor can the plant sustain itself due to lack of proper roots. The child might be prepared mentally, not emotionally. The plant might be ready to get out of his damn pot, but not physically.
This has not always been the problem. Growing practices have turned more into a churn and burn operation, grow fast, sell faster, otherwise to the burn pit with you. We as society have become similar. Get successful quick, gain wealth, otherwise you might as well live in the dumps of the world. We can’t all be beautiful flowers, we can’t all be cool kids, some of us are just awkward people trying to keep a chin up and a smile on their face. Some plants, such as the Viburnum, are diverse, but people think they’re boring. I have probably fifty parallels of personalities and plants, but I’m not going to bore the world with that. That’s not my point today.
“My name is Nobody”
Homer The Oddesey
We can all relate to certain psychological triggers that we have in life, things that make us feel a bit inferior, but there has never been a time in my waking adulthood that I could feel inferior around plants, especially those along the roadside. Too many times we focus on the flowers on the gardens, the manicured lawns, the parks of the cities. Manicured to try to please the masses. Trimmed. Altered. Unnatural.
There is so much beauty in the weeds of the roadside as opposed to the manicured lawns of suburbia, it’s hard for me to believe that people don’t see it. Honestly, it’s because they don’t know how to see it. They think there is a sort of role everything has to play, a mold you’re supposed to fit in. You’re a successful — whatever the hell you’re “supposed” to be. I knew what I wanted to be, I wanted to be me. I’ve been successful, I’ve been a failure. I’ve been rich, I’ve been a pauper. The only time that I felt like wasn’t me was when I felt I had to be somebody else. A mold that I couldn’t melt into, primarily because I don’t melt.
“He had big muscles, he had a tan”
Chicago Farmer, Illinois Anthem
“This isn’t Florida, not California….It’s Illinois.”
Concept of the song, dude had someone swoop in to get his girl with his good looks and hokey personality. She left him when he wasn’t tan…which is hilarious to me, you can’t be a natural person in Chicago in the winter without laying in a tanning bed, and if you have a tan in the Midwest after about Labor Day, you’re a phoney. People still do it, I did it, but I’m sort of embarrassed about it. I’d lay in a tan bed every day, because I thought that’s what I was supposed to be. I was supposed to be bronze, fit, and gorgeous.
I feel much more gorgeous being sort of pale. I don’t feel I need to chase after guys with big muscles and have a tan, and then again, it takes me back to my previous quote, Struggling with eating disorders for however many years, I’ve come to a sweet spot. The diversity of the weeds on the roadside remind me that many different shapes and types can exist together without hatred (except kudzu). We’ll all wave in the fragrant air of the blooming Ribes plants and be our own beautiful species, be it a type of person or plant.
“And I was like no one else. I am only one, and they are all.”
Maybe they are all and I’m the only one that enjoys the weeds on the roadside more than the manicured lawns of the suburbs.