Sunday, February 21, 2010

A Persian Flaw

A Persian Flaw

I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.
A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the sweet earth's flowing breast;
A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;
A tree that may in summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;
Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.
Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.

Joyce Kilmer may have been many things - a writer of rhyme, perhaps a silly person - but he clearly was not a gardener. Had he been, he might have added one more enjambment to his opus.

Yet though He may hath breathed it life

Gard'ners improve it with their knife.

If you ask people why they garden you will probably get reasons such as, to be creative, to learn new things, to meet people, or to get outdoor exercise. But it seems to me that all of these answers just dance around the edges of why horticulturalists really horticult. They do it in order to create their own private floral Utopia - that idyllic kind of place that they personally want to live in - a world in their own image and likeness. In other words, they do it to put the final finishing touches on nature.

Makers of Navajo blankets, on the other hand, purposely weave a mistake into each of their creations. Other artists and craftsmen apparently create similar deliberate defects in their icons, paintings, statues, etc.

It is called a "Persian Flaw".

Legend says that Persian rug makers, being deeply religious, believed that only God could make something perfect. To demonstrate humility before their deity, these carpet crafters deliberately incorporated a small error into each rug. This "Persian Flaw" revealed the craftsman's devotion to the Supreme Being.

Doesn't this act of faked fallibility seem a bit disingenuous? I mean it's like "Sorry. My bad! Didn't mean to be perfect."

I'm a gardener and I belong to a garden club with men of a similar persuasion. Trust me on this one. No disrespect, but there are definitely no "Persian Flaws" in our flowerbeds.

I asked the Internet site Google "should gardens be perfect?" The great Answerer of Queries told me to be more specific. Did I mean "perfect herb garden; perfect vegetable garden; picture perfect gardens; simply perfect gardens; perfect garden tool; perfect home garden; [or] perfect garden party"

Clearly the answer was yes.

Clicking on any one of these suggested shortlists of flawlessness brought up a long list of self-confident websites averring: "The Perfect...", "Creating the Perfect...", "5 Tips for a Perfect..."

In the real world, if a non-gardener were to check out the backyard of any one of us plantsmen they would see (depending on their mood and biases) either: (a) an out of control herd of plants tripping over each other in a packed-solid, overflowing, tapestry of color and texture, or (b) the Garden of Eden.

Meanwhile what we tenders of the land observe are: the perennial plant that could be moved three inches to the left to provide a more perfect contrast; and that errant weed worming its way through the otherwise pristine splendor; and the branch that needs a partial pruning in order to excise its dead portion or to eliminate its intrusion onto its neighbor; and the underperforming shrub that needs replacement. And we always notice that there is "room for at least one more" - even though we don't know where that room is until we return home with that plant we didn't know we needed until we saw it.

Psychiatrists might suggest that this compulsive quest for horticultural perfection is no more than plain-old delusions of grandeur. Others of a different intellectual bent might consider it a legitimate philosophical pursuit of Platonic Ideals. Our spouses tend to believe that it is just a sneaky way of avoiding real work, and playing in the dirt instead.

Here is what I think. Everybody has his or her own personal strengths and weaknesses. And in many instances the same trait that is someone's greatest asset can also be their greatest shortcoming. And thus it is with "green thumbs" - the outer sign of an inner obsession - the pursuit of perfection that makes all gardeners imperfect.

1 comment:

Bram said...

A former co-worker heard the story that a perfect pattern would trap evil spirits, so there had to be a way out for them. I always liked that ....