Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Lavender Has A Wild Side

“God gets pissed off when you don’t notice the color lavender.”

I read this on someone’s Facebook page last week. A side from the fact that I don’t believe God gets pissed off, I do think people should notice lavender. It is a cheerful herb, the greeter of the garden. It is not to bold or bright. It doesn't yell at passersby. It draws them in, first by their nose, then by lifted head, its tall blossoms stand like a proper English gentleman rising to greet a lady as she enters the room. It echoes the grace and beauty of bygone days filled with formal pleasantries and propriety.

Lavender has a wild side too. In the unfettered days of my youth (yesterday and hopefully tomorrow) lavender was the crop of hippies and the flirt of alternative therapies. Lavender got around, ending up in everything from my sock drawer to my honey. How could lavender go from proper lady of the English garden to wild seducer of household products, and then I realized, it must be the French variation. A flirty cousin, raised in strict plots and narrow rows had finally found her rebellion in chocolate bars and cheesecake. A place in Santa Barbara used to make an amazing lavender chipotle cheesecake. I wonder if this naughty temptress is the one who will save the bees, inviting them all over to pollinate so their population doesn't keep declining. A lavender light district is what those bees need. Maybe being easy is a good thing for bees. Those gentlemen callers buzzing around gardens like shored sailors make our gardens grow—urban rooftop plots, unruly country side spots, forgotten shacks, and neglected drives, English and French alike.

Growing amongst other herbs like basil and rosemary, lavender is always the prettiest, with her pale purple bouquets. Rosemary, despite delighting just about every plate it touches, doesn't do much for the eye. It is a bit aggressive, overbearing. One hot summer it quickly took over the whole yard. I thought we should let it go, especially since there wasn't anything else growing there. But the man of the house hacked it to pieces and discarded it. Basil is also bright and cheery, with a fragrance rivaling that of lavender but without little bouquets of its own. I grew basil for the first time this year, right in the kitchen window-box. I used old bright yellow coffee cans for pots. Watching the stems stand up out of the cans gives me a sense of accomplishment. I watered it when it was just dirt, and watched as stems started popping out and growing taller. One day two little leaves started venturing off the stem. Another day, buds formed on the leaves and two more little leaves grew out of the center. I like checking for new leaves while I drink my morning coffee.

It is still no match for lavender though, that well rounded lady of the garden, whose impeccable manners and innocent fun make her an invited guest just about anywhere she grows. Her scent reminds me of summer, of being a kid, of farmers markets, of harvest parties, of fields, of socks, and of my mom. She is a constant companion, undemanding and easy to be around, whose company I always enjoy whether it is in tea or honey or just to see her as I glance out the window. No, I whole heartedly disagree, lavender shouldn't be noticed, it should be felt.

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