Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Mint, redux

I didn't learn my lessons with mint. I bought another mint last year and planted it in my flowerbox. I thought keeping it in its original container would contain the rhizomatic roots so it wouldn't spread as rapidly. The container was organic, and the bottom distinegrated in the soil while the plastic top remained in place. The mint didn't care about the plastic, and its rhizomes spread deep and far. It started taking over my flower box again and has spilled out to the surrounding garden. Its life force and urge to propagate is tenacious. I pulled up the superficial plants that were growing above the surface, intermingling with the quiet yet robust thyme that has remained contained. I naively thought I cleared most of it out. When I dug down into the flowerbox to place a plastic sheet border to barricade its advancement, I kept finding more and more rhizomes. Dozens of rhizomes eminated horizontally from that one plant, layered one on top of the other, growing deeper and deeper. The superficial rhizome is a myth. These rhizomes were buried deep in the subterrain environment of the box where worms enjoyed playing with it. More and more of these rhizomes I pulled, revealing more underneath and alongside other rhizomes. 

I think I have all the off shoots pulled. Which means I probably don't.  

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Wanderlust or Bust

Last week, I had plans to travel to Austin, Texas for an annual mini-reunion with friends from a 2011 Fulbright-Hays trip to Morocco and Tunisia. Since we spent six rather intense weeks together on that trip, we are now bonded for life. Seeing them is one of the highlights of the year for me. Living on a graduate student teaching assistantship stipend significantly reduces the amount of disposable income I have, so buying an expensive plane ticket was not feasible. Instead, I used miles from American Airlines, which cost me only $10 and the inconvenience of having 2 layovers.

Somewhere over the Midwest
I used my time to start reading a book recommended by my advisor, Wanderlust: A History of Walking (2000) by Rebecca Solnit. I recently made the relationship that walking provides me with a clarity of thought to reflect upon my work, research, and life. While walking, I am often able to make relational connections between seemingly disparate elements. I problem solve better. I vow to follow a plan of action in meeting goals and making ideas happen. I think productively. I notice the subtle nuances of the world around me. I find my place in that world. I reflect on scholarship and theorize about everything I see (though sometimes that can be overwhelming). I feel. I exist. I am. Solnit quotes Rousseau, "There is something about walking which stimulates and enlivens my thoughts. When I stay in one place I can hardly think at all..." (p. 19). Ironically, I read this book about walking on the plane, a space that greatly restricts mobility. As I continue reading, I make a vow to walk everyday then to write my thoughts upon my return, a vow I also made a month ago when walking about 2 miles from my hotel to a conference presentation at U of I.

Agora (2006) by Magdalena Abakanowicz in Chicago's Grant Park
My last layover before I land in Austin is at Chicago's O'Hare airport. Being from the Chicago suburbs, I have flown out of O'Hare dozens of times but seldom have I had to make connecting flights here. It was a dark and stormy night.... More and more flights were becoming delayed or canceled at an alarming rate. Will my 8:40 pm, now 10:30 pm, now 11 pm departure to Austin actually happen? Will I be one of the lucky ones to get out of O'Hare? Nope. Not going to happen. My flight on Wednesday was canceled. The following evening, when my flight to Austin was rescheduled, it was once again canceled due to bad weather. After waiting in line for over an hour, I was told the earliest I could get to Austin was on Saturday. And my return flight was for 6 am Sunday morning. So, I decided to abandon my desire of going to Austin to see my friends. Feeling defeated, I rebooked my flight to go back to Pennsylvania, with the earliest departure on Saturday morning.
The liminal space between terminals 2 and 3 at O'Hare became a makeshift shelter
for hundreds of people stranded by storms and canceled flights on June 18, 2014.
Luckily, I have family in the Chicago area and had places to stay. I spent the day on Thursday with my parents and had lunch with my cousin. Friday was spent with my husband's family, taking the blue line L to the Field Museum then walking along the lakeshore with my sister-in-law and going to my niece's dance performance later that evening. While it wasn't Austin, it proved to be a wonderfully unexpected impromptu visit with family. I even got a little bit of walking in, with my parents at Cantigny park in Wheaton and with my sister-in-law from the L station to the museum and back. I wanted to ground myself in place by walking and experiencing the place I was temporarily stranded in to become more than what Solnit describes as a "parcel in transit" (p. 28).

Panoramic of Chicago, to Lake Shore Drive and Buckingham Fountain on the left to Lake Michigan on the right.

My original intention of this blog was to reflect on readings from Deleuze and Guattari's A Thousand Plateaus biweekly in association with the reading group during the school year, but that goal went unrealized. Instead, I want to continue the conversation of rhizomes and wanderings, but from reflections from walking, wandering and wanderlust.

My trip to Austin was a bust, but I found other things to soak in instead. I also have a quick overnight "make-up" trip to New York City planned for next week where I plan to do a lot of walking.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Mint: friend or foe? Or can it be both?

About 15 years ago, I was a new home owner in Lafayette, Indiana. The previous owners had established nice garden landscaping around the perimeters of the house and yard, with an overall theme of purple flowers that I was more than happy to continue. The back of the house faced south, and it was perfect for an herb garden. There was already quite a few herbs planted, including sage, oregano, beebalm, catmint, and lavender- all with purple flowers. I added to the herb garden throughout my 14 years of living there, with echinacea, chives, yarrow, mallow, more lavender, and mint. I planted a few varieties of mint, such as pineapple mint, spearmint, peppermint, chocolate mint and lemon balm. I think I only used the plants a handful of times to flavor drinks and dips, but I liked the fact that I could pick it anytime I wished. The mints established themselves well- too well. I had to aggressively pull the mint back multiple times in the summer, lest my herb garden would become a mint garden. Some of the mint varieties, like the unwelcome Creeping Charlie (which ironically also has purple flowers), established themselves from rhizomes, shooting their stems across and through the garden, some with their roots establishing a connection above ground and others shooting across the earth slightly below, growing wherever they pleased. I became regretful of my decision to plant the mint. It was out of control. I couldn't completely kill the mint, though. It was quite established in the garden, and I couldn't remove all of it without applying a healthy dose of plant killer, which I wasn't about to do. So I let the mint grow and trimmed it back when I could. I began to marvel at its tenacity and the way that insects loved it. It seemed my batch of mint was a breeding ground for a Praying Mantis since I saw babies hiding on the branches year after year. Toads found a home under the mint, too, and it served as the backdrop for the hummingbird feeder. Most of my mint varieties had purple and pink flowers which the bees, and unfortunately wasps, liked. It wasn't such a bad plant afterall. I just had to control it, find a good balance for its placement, and redirect its offshoots.
A poor quality photo of a portion of my herb garden in Lafayette, in the heat of summer 2012. I attempt to contain the mint varieties in front of the window. Other plants surrounding the mint are bee balm, sedum, sage, and savory.
Fifteen years later, I am beginning a reading adventure, exploring the writings of Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari in A Thousand Plateaus while in a reading group at Penn State, led by Dr. Charles Garoian. I am just on the first chapter, appropriately named Rhizome. The rhizome is not vertical nor linear. There is no beginning or end- you start in the middle, the between, the interbeing, the intermezzo. It is the constant state of becoming, the "and - and - and."As I first considered the rhizome, I think back to that mint. The tenacious mint that spread everywhere. I caught the mint in the middle, so when I tried to pull it, I created multiplicities of it. No beginning, no end. It grew and stretched and multiplied and had the potential to take over the garden.

I recently planted new mint at my house in State College since I actually missed the old, weedy batch. But this time, I planted it in a wooden plant box on my deck to try to contain it. The chocolate mint has already escaped, finding its way in the grooves of dirtless terrain on the wooden deck.
Chocolate mint, happily escaping from the flower box.