Sunday, December 20, 2009

O, Christmas Tree! Thy Leaves Are So Unchanging!

I've never had a Christmas tree before. However, raised in a loving, nondenominational household, I always had a proxy to fulfill my desperate urge to decorate in the holiday season. In early childhood, I made a succession of two-dimensional construction paper trees with removable paper ornaments. My parents finally broke down and bought me a small plastic tree from CVS, which I lovingly draped with origami ornaments. Last year, I greatly enjoyed the irony of hanging small glass ornaments from my tropical bonsai tree, a specimen that droops without a heat lamp in Brooklyn's winter climate. Poor thing.

This year, my boyfriend begged for a real Christmas tree. Although he had an upbringing similar to mine, he always had a Christmas tree. His entire family would trudge into the wilderness of Massachusetts (or drive to a Christmas tree farm; whatever, it's all weird to me) and chop down their tree themselves. How rugged.... As much as I love my boyfriend, I just couldn't do it. I could not have a dead tree in our apartment. So, I compromised: I bought a live, three-foot-tall Blue Dwarf Spruce (Picea glauca 'Haal').

Perhaps like many environmental enthusiasts, I didn't exactly think this one through. Evergreens go into a dormancy in cold weather. If they are brought indoors for an extended period of time, they come out of this dormancy and begin to grow. Once this happens, taking them back outdoors can shock them. Even if they don't emerge from this dormancy, one needs to have had the foresight to dig a hole in which to plant them before the ground freezes. Given the recent snow fall, I'd say that's no longer an option. Looks like I've got a new houseplant!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

In Defense of Poison Ivy

I have always been a die-hard Batman fan, and one of my favorite characters besides the Bat himself is Poison Ivy. The origin story goes like this: Pamela Isley, a shy but attractive botany grad student, is seduced by her professor, who later poisons her. She survives and finds she has developed an immunity to all natural toxins. A supervillain is born. Yet this supervillain has a cause: Poison Ivy is a environmental preservationist turned fanatical bio-terrorist.

A friend of mine recently gave me a sweetly sinister little book
by Amy Stewart titled Wicked Plants: The Weed that Killed Lincoln's Mother & Other Botanical Atrocities, which details some of the "unfathomable evils [that] lurk within the plant kingdom." Stewart posits that plants should be approached with a guarded respect, noting that "we all benefit from spending more time in nature -- but we should also understand its power... [plants] can nourish and heal, but they can also destroy."

In an episode of Batman the Animated Series, Ivy poisons Gotham's DA, Harvey Dent, in revenge for his destruction of nature in the pursuit of civic development. She reasons, "
Plowing up a field of beautiful wild flowers for that silly penitentiary of his." "This little rose," she adds, gesturing to the poisonous agent, "would be extinct today if I hadn't saved my precious from those horrible bulldozers. The blood of those flowers is on his hands!"

It's hard not to like to Poison Ivy. She understands the power of nature and defends it, albeit in a twisted way. As the scales of the built and natural environment continue to tip in my Gotham, there's a small part of me that fantasizes about donning a green unitard and kicking some ass in the name of plants everywhere. But I'll settle for more reasonable methods. Persistence is key. As Ivy says
when vanquished, "They can bury me in the ground as deep as they like, but I'll grow back. We always grow back!"