Sunday, September 26, 2010

“Now Give me Those Ruby Slippers—or You’ll Never See Your [Cats] Again!”

(subtitle: Color in the Garden: Ruby)

Oh, Margaret Hamilton.

Who can forget her delivery of that iconic line, her hands arched perfectly, bony fingers protruding, pointing, grasping for the shoes she coveted ever so?! That nose, that voice, that face: she single-handedly made witches fetching.

Ruby Reds: they are compelling, aren’t they?

So compelling, in fact, they led to bullying, threats, dismemberment, kidnapping, death threats, attempted murder, and, finally… (Was this really a children’s story?!)

Ah, Ruby Reds: the Achilles’ Heel of the Wicked Witch of the West. Her desire for them—like all forms of unchecked desire—eventually blinded, and compelled her to act hastily to accelerate time so that her desire would be consummated. And we all know how that ended.

I can still hear her screams, “Your cursed brat! Look what you’ve done?! I’m melting! Melting!”

Ruby Reds: this time, it’s Pineapple Sage (Salvia elegans of the Lamiacae family). It, too, melts--and screams as it’s doing so! It likes water, and lets you know when it doesn’t have enough. Drama Queen.
Yes. Drama Queen, indeed. Earlier in the day I saw the Ruby Slippers at the National Museum of American History (I spent the day at museums while Viet literally chased down Nobel Prize winning author Orhan Pamuk  on the National Mall to sign a book). There were as many people crowded around the glass case showcasing probably the most famous pair of shoes in history as there were around the Hope Diamond at the National Museum of Natural History. Those little Ruby Reds do have a power over the imagination: metaphor for the virtue of self-sufficiency, portent against profligate desire (much like the Hope Diamond, come to think of it).   

My Ruby Red, however, contains all the powers of self-sufficiency as a newborn baby. The extraordinary, unseasonable heat of the last two days took its toll: there it was, drooping to the ground, the leaves almost parallel to the stems. Midnight watering rewarded. This morning it began to bloom: a rich, vibrant autumnal treat in a realm dominated by brilliant, if burnt and muted, colors.

There is nothing burnt or muted about the tubular ruby colored flowers of Pineapple Sage: they command attention, evoke desire, serve as a beacon for the butterflies and hummingbirds.

Ah, yes, the Lamiacaes are at it again, bathing my garden in drama.

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