Monday, July 16, 2012

Adonidis horti

Viet and I began going to the gym in January 2011 after one of his several many aunts who had not seen us in 5 years called us fat. Yes, I had been aware that tenure and life after 40 trampled down my youthful metabolism, and many a suit pant no longer fit. But her comment proved the straw that broke my camel's back, for she hit with exacting precision the raw nerve that was my weight issue.

The truth of the matter (in the interests of semi-full disclosure) is that I was once, many, many years ago, a self-professed "shadow-itarian:" if it cast a shadow, I wouldn't eat it. I did quickly see the folly of that, and so ate puffed rice, but that was all I ate. I damned myself in many ways. Enough said. My weight issues were an illness...hence the radioactivity of the comment.

I've come to enjoy the gym, though as with everything in life, I get bored easily. So for the first few months I developed a love for the elliptical, supplemented by a weight training regimen. But then began the affair with the treadmill, and my elliptical romance eventually passed into an oblivion I can no longer access. The cross trainer proved a one-night stand, as did the step machine, though the satisfaction of climbing the height of several famous buildings (so the machine told me) compelled me to engage with it a few times. Now I run (usually outside). And do yoga; I think I could never get bored with yoga as it differs with each class even with the same instructor. Occasionally the rowing machine finds way into my repertoire. But I fear doing much except for yoga with any regularity or frequency because, after a time, they fall victim to my incessant need for change and stimulation.

People-watching at the gym never gets boring, thankfully, for in their exercise people are spectacles. Yet one group or "type" stands out: all of the peacocks strutting about. They seem to glide across the floor of the gym, targeting their next station: chests puffed up, shift sleeves completely removed and the sides slit so deeply one is treated to generous views of sculpted pecs and six pack abs, and, like a parody of John Wayne Westerns, arms bowed as if gun holsters protruded from their hips. These are the young men gripped with Adonis Complexes.

There are many gods in Greek mythology, but Adonis, the god of beauty and desire, possesses a special designation: for his name, from the Semitic adon (from which the Hebrew אֲדֹנָי, Adonai, derives) means lord. Talk about elevation. Adonis: god of gods? Well, yes. Kind of. No wonder we name a complex after him. One wonders if Greek mythology was really Epicurean, or even Bacchanalian, at its core.

By now, dear reader must be thinking: what does this have to do with gardening?

Well, according to legend, when the beloved and dashingly beautiful Adonis died (killed by a wild boar, sent either by the jealous Artemis, or by the spiteful Ares, or by the vengeful Apollo), Aphrodite sprinkled his blood with nectar and thus sprang the anemone, Greek for "daughter of the wind," the short-lived flowers whose petals are easily felled by the wind.

My little Adonis, Gramsci-cat, sprinkled my anemones with a bit of his urine. Believe me: more than the petals fell.

The gardening connection does not stop there. Oh no. I was reading a bit of Erasmus (because we all know that's what we do when we procrastinate) and learned that, in honor of the fallen Adonis, women would sow the seeds of fast-germinating plants in pots each spring.

After the eight day festival of Adonia honoring Adonis' life, beauty, and death, (well, really more his beauty), women would heave these pots from their rooftops into the rivers and oceans to honor the fallen god.

Some have commented that these pots containing shallow rooted plants withered daily in the sun. Hence they were worthless. Theocritus called them "frail gardens, in bright silver baskets kept." Hence developed a proverb--"more sterile than the gardens of Adonis"--presumably to reflect the merely pleasurable, non-productive Adonis Gardens.(Hence I think they should be potted with herbs, which prefer drier conditions.)

I have never been a fan of gardening in pots, precisely because they require daily doses of water--and more during the dog days of summer.

I did, though, have success with Hymenocalis festalis Zwanenburg (Peruvian Spider Lily, though it bloomed several weeks early (and was done blooming by the time of the garden contest in mid-June. And the rosemary and chives, the ferns, and my Japanese maple seem to enjoy dominating their individual pots.

As homage to Adonis and salute to all of those complexes strutting about the gym, my Peacock Orchids (Gladiolus acidanthera) have begun to bloom. Staring into those perfect flowers, I realize how much I enjoy that parade of beauty.

But heaving them from the rooftops? Nary a chance. Inviting them into my home? Well, then, in the interests of semi-full-disclosure, what happens at 410 stays....

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