By today’s standards, my mother was a frequesnt, yet mild, cusser. Six feet tall with the countenance of a queen, whatever she said, including many, mostly risqué sayings, came off as imperious truth. For instance, if she were looking at the dying bud in this painting by Marissa Bridge, her comment would be, ‘That one shot his wad.’
Without questioning how appropriate or not they might be in polite company, I adopted her colorful cliches. Once, after an exhausting day of gardening, in front of a chaste friend who entertained fantasies about the nasty demands and virtues of purity, my long-gone mother spilled from my lips. I flopped into a cushy chair and said, ‘I shot my wad.’
As if he swallowed rotten meat, horror struck the muscles of my friend’s mouth. The phallic interpretation had never entered my mind. Thereafter, my inherited mother’s raucous voice remains mostly in check. And today, I would express the demise of this short-lived orchid bud as ‘Going gently into the night.’
Marissa and I were on the phone a day after I published last week’s #13 Gender Fluidity, and she asked how I came up with that particular subject.
“The dying bud looks like a scrotum, and I started thinking about the sex life of plants,” I said. Since it was published a few hours before the tragic massacre in Orlando, its timing was purely accidental.
I am never sure how the composition and tone of one of her paintings will turn into a little piece of writing. It always starts with innocence, or experience, maybe a memory, or a little story that relates, and finally, trust in the process. But this week, there is no such luxury for gentle musings.
Our culture is no longer sane. The tragedy in Orlando represents a combination of many components, including the hell of hatred, and our gun politics. At some point, the powers that be (NRA, are you listening?) and the collective population, must arrive at a crisis of consciousness. One must wonder how much more information we need. Our laws support the creation of monsters who might otherwise just be angry or troubled souls living out their natural lives in obscurity, without the ability for war against innocent people.
Upon checking out a slim volume in the 1970’s from the local library on the sex life of plants, my two passions of growing things and reading collided. In thoroughly investigating the reproductive parts of blossoms, what really got me at the time was the female parts looked similar to the ovary of a human female, and the stamen is undoubtedly phallic.
But the thing most fascinating to me now is the different combinations of male and female in plants. There are the flowers that contain both sexes, able to fertilize without the birds or the bees, or the whims of the wind. They are referred to as ‘perfect flowers,’ or ‘hermaphroditic,’ meaning one bed, and tend to be big showy blossoms like the lily, the rose, and of course, the orchid. Other plants contain a mix of male or female individual flowers, as in the zucchini, and are referred to as monoecious meaning one household. Some plants do sex switiching, starting out male and as they mature, they may be asexual for a time, and then become female. And there are species, the Ginko for one, in which the male and female trees are totally separate. Even though there are many species of plants, and scientifically only one species of human beings, all those floral variants, and there are more than listed above, serve to open my eyes even wider to gender fluidity.
It took getting away from my wildcat family, a clan of iconoclastic survivors, to learn that no matter how well one person may be doing, we are ultimately only as successful as the whole. My first introduction to this concept happened in conversation and I can still clearly recall the wide-eyed look on my friend, Kate Kelly’s face as I expressed the family philosophy of superior strength and will, according to them, as the only ways to get by in this world. But Kate knew better, and in her typical non-confontational grace, her few words on the subject changed the tides of my thinking.
This exchange took place in the ’70’s. Kate’s been gone twenty years, and in spite of her short life, her wisdom lives in me and others who knew her, She can be identified in the inner and outer beauty of her two daughters, one of whom I traveled with to Greece, and recently, Bali. I still think of her when I ponder consciousness. Whether a short life or long, rebellious or refined, our thoughts and intentions are a drop of water contributing to a troubled or vital sea.