Saturday, May 19, 2007

The Slasher

"The slasher," I've dubbed him, this kid who passes through the neighborhood now and then wielding a switch-of-a long stick, hacking machete-like at any lovely green or flowering thing along his path. So far my garden has been spared. Lucky for me, I was in the street chatting with a friend when, trailing behind his mom and sister, he made his move on my Siberian iris. My holler stopped him mid-slash. His mother turned and looked at me.

"What was he doing?"

"He was about to whack those flowers." I pointed to the patch.

"I've told him not to do that..." she offered, and I waved it off, smiled.

"It's okay," I said, and it was: no harm was done. But what about next time? I couldn't help but wonder.

I only knew what he was up to because I'd watched through the kitchen window, aghast, one day last week as he sliced mightily across a bed of creeping phlox in full flower across the street.

When three days ago I discovered a patch of decapitated tulips up my sidewalk a ways, I knew the slasher had struck again. The flower heads had yet to wilt fully, so I gathered all five and brought them inside with the hope of reviving them. With clean cuts to their barely two-inch stems, in a short vase of water, revive they did. That pleased me, as it pleased me to fall to sleep that night with their subtle fragrance wafting from my bedside table. But the next morning, when they glowed with the new sun, I appreciated even more my bittersweet boon. Out came the camera, and now, having seen up close what exactly had been taken down by the slasher with one clean sweep of his switch no doubt, I am compelled to speak about it, to share it here.

Certainly if my slasher friend saw these images, if he knew (which I assume he doesn't) that it takes about 50 weeks of preparation each year for a tulip to give us the at best (if, say, a premature heat wave doesn't sizzle them in a day or two) two weeks of glory, if he knew that the bees rely on them for their pollen, and that it takes some special care, actually, to even get a tulip flower out of a tulip bulb at all (for instance, bone meal, and letting the greens fade to yellow before snapping them off) surely he would at least think twice if not think better of taking them down with his stick. And the woman who planted them, my neighbor Chris, a gardener: I'm sure she didn't select, purchase and place these bulbs in the street-side city tree pit only to see their newly-blossoming stems summarily severed in one hacking sweep--Whack! It's gotta be ignorance that had this happen, right?

And the cure for ignorance? What is that if not illumination, understanding, a connection to that which one takes to be separate, unrelated, foreign, irrelevant, expendable, other. I think of Abu Ghraib, of racism, sexism--all the 'ism's. I think of anti This and wars on That, and I say that in every case, only seeing is lacking. It is a sort of blindness that is at the source of violent acts. A case of mistaken identity, if you will.

So what, I saved a flower, or five. I could even anthropomorphize (which I have been inclined to do) and say I dignified them by returning them to life, so they might meet their death naturally: bloom until fading, and be longer seen, enjoyed, appreciated in the process. It pleases me that I accomplished this: I simply have enjoyed them--and will continue to do so by way of these photographs. Perhaps you will enjoy them now, too--so much the better. But this isn't exactly the point. The point is this, and I'll state it as an appeal:

look, see, until you understand.

The notion of "other" is a trap. When I look long enough, I see that ultimately there is no other. That means no antagonist, no enemy, no evil force, no conspirator, no tormentor, other than the ones I create.

Am I crazy to see a continuum, a direct line between the slasher and the World's wars?

All I can tell you is this: the next time I see the slasher, I want to have a talk with him. Not to reprimand or threaten or scold him, which is essentially what I did when I intervened in his hacking into the irises. Rather, I've got an apology to deliver, some questions to ask, some pictures to share, maybe.

"The phlox," I might say, "the iris, the tulips: have you looked them in the eye??" And he might look at me funny, but curiosity would keep him there long enough for me to grab his arm and bring him over to give him an eyefull.

Then I would watch him begin to recall, watch him come to see himself in their perfect or imperfect, bright and beautiful faces.


Post a Comment

<< Home