Sunday, March 30, 2008

Spleenwort

A lot is going on now, yet I'm taking a break to write while I have pre-work coffee. There's not really much bad stress lately, just work stress and good stress. Life is busy. I'm feeling behind in my academic work, but not so much that I can't catch up. I have a new job, which I like more and more as I work there. I'm also planning a trip for the summer (which may conflict with job; I'll find that out this week I think), planning for a visit from Mary from Germany, and thinking ahead about moving, trying to get rid of my possessions to make moving easier. The more I look, the more I find stuff that I do like, but I can actually part with it. Thanks to Book Mooch, I'm finding it not difficult to part with books, even ones that were formerly my favorite. I don't mind giving them up if I know they're going directly to a good, loving home.
Also, we're planning a party next weekend--using my birthday as an excuse for all of us to throw a party. This is definitely occupying my time but in a good way. Cleaning the house takes away from academic work time...but really, it's better that I don't live in squalor!
The result of all this cleaning, however, is paranoia. Yesterday I found myself Googling "lead poisoning" and "what do i do if I inhaled lead dust?" I realized as I was nearly finished sweeping up the back porch that paint chips were flying everywhere and I was totally breathing in dust and getting stuff in my eye and OH MY GOD THESE ARE PAINT CHIPS and OH MY GOD THIS IS AN OLD HOUSE THIS IS PROBABLY LEAD PAINT. Later, my nose was really irritated. I thought about calling the poison control number...and then realized it was probably spring allergies.

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Do any of my three readers (or people stumbling across this blog) have any tips for maidenhair fern care? At my new job, I am responsible for selecting plants for a display window AND caring for them. Except I only work two days a week. When we were selecting plants, my boss warned me that maidenhair ferns are difficult to care for, but I picked out four anyway. I wanted a spring theme, but not a bunch of sappy pink and pastels - no, a mix of those colors, some small flowering plants, and also lots of fern foliage. Sort of a forest floor with spring ephemerals (as much as you can do that with houseplants) theme. I came in last week and saw that one of the ferns was shriveled and dry (but still green.) I came in two days ago and saw that all but one was in this state. OH NO! While researching how to remedy this, I found that the other plant I picked out, streptocarpus, is prone to pest outbreaks. Great!
I fear I will soon be outed at my new job as not a real horticulturalist. In truth, I am a really bad gardener. My father once called me the Dr. Kevorkian of Plants. (Actually, it's not my fault - the backyard in Sparta is impossible to grow vegetables in. It's shady, the soil is acidic, and the deer outwit every fence.)
The real tragedy of this is that it's ferns I've failed. I love ferns! A story I've been telling lately is how, when I was about seven, I was playing in the yard, making up some bizarro story about a princess being held captive by a sorceror or something, and all she could eat was grass...so I was pulling up grass and weeds and making up a song about it when my eyes fell upon something I'd seen, but never really noticed before...my mom's patch of ferns! I thought they were magical, and they probably had a role in the story, but I don't remember. I think I quickly got distracted because I wanted to ask my mom about the magical plants. She told me that they were ferns, got a Peterson Field Guide for me (from the library...we were always frugal in my house) and, after seeing me spend hours in the yard trying to key out the ferns we had, looking in the field guide for pretty ferns and then hopefully looking for them in our backyard (which had maybe two types of fern...no Hart's Tongue or Maidenhair Spleenwort), my mother said, "You should be a botanist when you grow up." And so, at seven, the seed was planted.
There were a lot of distractions in between, a lot of alternate "when I grow up" dreams, such as doctor (pfft), poet, choral director in underprivileged high school, painter (I cannot paint), fashion designer, neuroscientist, biotech scientist who makes transgenic stuff. This morning, while examining my poor maidenhair ferns (I took them home to rescue them), I was thinking about how these were really the plants that set me on this path--I saw a line drawing of "maidenhair spleenwort" and thought it was the most beautiful thing--and I realized what it was that maidenhair spleenworts drew me away from...fortunately.
Before I learned that one could be a "botanist," do you know what I wanted to be when I grew up?
A queen.

1 comment:

Elena said...

Wow, WOW. I was literally JUST worrying about lead poisoning the other day. I have some bowls that I bought at Target that I have been using to eat out of for about a year and then it recently dawned on me that they might not be food safe, and that the reason for that might be that they contain lead. jesus.

Fern care. Yikes. They love to die. They LOVE IT. I think they like to be spritzed a lot. But really, I rarely keep a fern alive for very long, so i don't know...

Why is it that the more you study plants, the less you can properly care for them?? We sometimes joke that our office is where houseplants come to die.

And whatever, I wanted to be Bill Cosby or a fish when I grow up. At least queen was possible (completely one in a zillion chances remote but POSSIBLE).