Thursday, December 15, 2011
"Haul out the Holly"
I have a friend--let's call him, oh, Warren--who seems to know every lyric and every line from every musical ever written.
Exaggeration? Perhaps. But ask him.
So, I have a quiz. Are you ready, Warren?
"Haul out the Holly" is the first line of what song in what musical that debuted on Broadway in 1966?
Need a hint?
The show opened with Bea Arthur and Angela Lansbury.
this musical was an adaptation of a 1956 play (originally entitled My Best Girl), which adapted a 1955 novel (whose name I cannot yet divulge for it would give away the name of our mystery musical).
And our final hint:
the main character's motto is "Life is a banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death."
I am sure Warren took one look at the title and scoffed: how simple! Puh-lease! Have some respect.
That musical would be Mame, and the number for which "Haul out the Holly" opens is "We Need a Little Christmas."
So that was a circuitous way to celebrate what has become one of my favorite garden personages: the Holly Fern (Cyrtomium falcatum).
Look at those erect fronds--2 to 3 feet in height, gently arching to give a cascading fountain effect!
Look at the leathery, holly-like leaves with a sheen that is the visual equivalent to the young Angela Lansbury belting out lyrics to "We Need a Little Christmas!" Both are there, both stage a presence.
"This"--"this" being finding meaning in things, and thus finding while losing ourselves in those "things"--is what we do, isn't it? Warren finds his joy in musicals, and I in gardening. Viet has many pleasures from which he derives meaning (he keeps a blog, My Criterion Life, that documents his own musings and discoveries coincident with the films of the celebrated Criterion Collection...a sort of Julie and Julia project even if he protests my comparison).
This is what we do. Otherwise, we look in the mirror one day and see but a shell of a Being that should be a self, the what-could-have-been-but-can-no-longer-be-because-our-time-is-running-out. That is what we have become, and that is what we shall be. It is a sobering thought.
The Druids found meaning in and thus celebrated the Holly tree, now the symbolic repository of "the season," because it remained vibrantly lush and kept the Earth beautiful while the sacred oaks (now English Oaks) were bereft of their leaves. One wonders if they transferred the idea of the sacred from the Oak to the Holly, or if they recognized different manifestations of the sacred, or if the Druids saw the sacred itself shift seasonal residence (a precursor to "Snow Birds" on the East Coast), or if the they merely shifted their attention from barren branches to bountiful boughs, much as we moderns do daily, hourly, by the minute, even if they did so much more slowly than we moderns.
So Cyrtomium falcatum, the Holly fern, which throughout the year strikes a presence owing to those glossy semi-serrated leaves (can you spot them?), assumes special presence and meaning at this time of year if only because of the barren landscape in which it finds itself. It is the ground-cover equivalent to its arboreal eponym, perhaps not resident or incarnation of the sacred, but an exuberant if unexpected evergreen presence in the garden.
And attribute meaning to it, we do, if only to appease our incessant, inner search for something more than ourselves.