Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Adding A Little Mystery To Our Life

Mars and I were given an Aspidistra this weekend. It is the offspring of one that was owned by friends and former golf-partners Kyoko and Ron (now moved to Phoenix) who, upon their departure, entrusted it to mutual friends, Judy and Rob. The mother plant became ready for splitting, which Judy did, and surprised us with it.

Sensing our non-recognition of the common plant name Judy wisely told us the historic provenance - "that large plant in the Edward Gorey cartoons that people would hide behind. The Victorians liked it because it could grow in their darkened interiors" - rather than its formal name Genus Aspidistra, family Liliaceae.

Mars and I not really Victorian people. In fact coming of age in the sixties probably makes us anti-Victorians. And we don't watch Public Broadcasting's Mystery series but we have attempted to several times - really we have! Truthfully however I turned it on expecting to see it hosted by the leather-clad Mrs. Peel of the "Avengers" television program. Sadly it is not - instead there is some matronly Dame Diana somebody-or-other with a faint facial resemblance. We did however make it through the opening credits wherein Gorey's gothic line drawings appear. I think there is an aspidistra is in somewhere. Or maybe not - I was still sulking over the lack of zippers, Lotus Europas, and such things. In any event Judy's description got the idea across.

So I Googled "Victorian people" to see what the world wide web could tell me about what we are not, or possibly would become, if we let the bulbous plant with broad tapering leaves into our daily lives. I was directed to a site called victorianpeople.com which returned a "503 Service Unavailable The service is not available. Please try again later." message when I attempted to link to it - possibly some of the famous Victorian reticence.

There were also suggestions for sites with Victorian cartoons and caricatures (precursors of Gorey), lots of photos of the eponymous queen (or is it vice-versa?), and an intriguingly titled book called "Victorian Babylon: People, Streets and Images in Nineteenth-Century London" (which suggested to me at least that our newest leafy family member might perk up our life a little).

I remember taking a course in Victorian literature in college. But I don't remember anything of it other than the name Matthew Arnold, and the consensus opinion of my fellow students that the class should be catalog listed as "writings of that period taught by a real life Victorian" - by which we were bitching to ourselves about our collective disappointment in the unsexiness of both the readings and the lecturer.

Ironically the day before we received the Aspidistra we came across a plant stand that Mars' father had made many years ago. He had removed the glass cigarette receptacle from an ashtray stand - a wedding gift, brass-legged with a shell decorated brass base - and replaced it with a nicely polished cross-cut from a tree trunk, absent the bark. An objet d'art from the 1930's - not Victorian in provenance but certainly close enough for our purposes.

Both the holder and the plant now stand in front of our west-facing living room window. That spot will provide the flower with pretty much all that Judy says it will need - not much light and very occasional watering.

Hopefully it will grow large enough to hide behind. And perhaps even inspire us to indulge in some clandestine spying activities - sort of a Victorian Secret Catalyst.

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