please click on the illustration above, for more rosy detail
The gentle rose bud
What could be more natural?
Soft soul of the earth
The Green Studies Handbook
for Down-To-Earth Romantics
Romancing the Rose
Coming back with a bike basketful of roses from the farmer’s market, I was reminded of the nineteenth century urban romantics fascination with the natural scene. I was admiring some of the great landscape art that came out of that era just yesterday in the Cantor Art Museum over at Stanford University.
Improved agricultural methods combined with the industrial revolution in places like England, and later in the Americas, sent people to live in towns and cities from the mid 1800’s on into the later part of the century. Food could be produced in greater abundance by less and less hands. Rural lifestyles for the common woman, like my great-great grandmother, Anna Sherman, and her sisters became a thing of the past as they moved off the farm and into downtown Chicago.
Fortunately for Anna, she was able to qualify as a telegrapher. Not for her the daily struggle at loom or in a factory. As they joined the new breed of white-collared workers, her descendants could romanticize the rural life Mama and Grandmama had left behind. The landscape painters and photographers whose works I was studying yesterday, captured the dreams of these new Romantics.
Forgotten was the manure pile, the backbreaking hours of pitching, lifting and straining, and the despair of drought, insect plagues and other natural elements that led to crop failure. We recalled a fantasy world of wide-open vistas, rolling hills and an earth of perpetual flowers, sunshine and fishing anytime we wanted it. We imagined walking out into our own gardens to harvest a head of still-growing lettuce or freeing a carrot to crunch fresh from it’s earthy compost-rich home.
Like the properly modern day Romantic I am, I carry on this fantasy tradition. On Sundays, I trot over to the farmers market on foot, or wheel over by cruiser bike. Often, of course, I imagine that I am tripping gaily down the path on market day, with my basket dangling from one hand and my long skirts bunched up in the other. There I will buy farm fresh lettuce, rainbow hued chard and deep crimson or pale pastel colored roses cut just this morning and trucked in behind the farmer’s slow moving horse. Of course that horse is always named Old Dobbin. I think that was required. I will feel just like I plucked these farm fresh products myself.
And as an added benefit, I can feel smugly environmentally conscious arriving at the downtown market under my own power to buy locally grown products.
Today I stopped to talk to the farmer who sold me my roses at the downtown Farmer’s Market. The vendors are often happy to chat, especially when it’s a little rainy out and there are few shoppers taking their time. My roses came from his neighbors greenhouses in Watsonville. They are grown there in greenhouses throughout the winter months. Though these flowers came over the grade in the back of this gentleman’s truck, along with his spring greens and bok choy, the majority of the roses his fellow farmer grows are sent by big freight trucks or air plane to other parts of the country.
When the flowers arrive, still fresh in New York or Santa Fe, they must still look as though they’ve just stepped off the farm. We discussed the elaborate, expensive and resource consuming containers that are required for those shipping methods and wondered about the costs of fuel in contrast with the fuel this farmer’s Old Dobbin truck consumed on his way over from the coast. Once the flowers arrive at their destination, the florists arrive to eye these emigrants who have flown 3,000 miles away from California, or perhaps 2500 miles from Colombia.
So fresh, so natural. It’s almost as though we stepped outside our own back door and plucked the tender buds from the vine with our own dainty little fingers.