John Greenlee, one of the designers associated with The Late Show Gardens, was somewhere on the road south of Salinas as we talked on the phone. He is the owner of Greenlee Nursery, the oldest and largest nursery in California specializing in ornamental grasses, and is well known for his advocacy of what he calls the American meadow garden as an alternative to the suburban lawn. We have come a long way toward making a “meadow revolution” possible, he said, and I felt his passion to further it “one garden at a time.” I also sensed, perhaps mistakenly, a bit of exasperation that he needed to expound on this one more time, that it is so painfully obvious the era of the clipped lawn has long since passed its day.
A revolution. “You’re either in or you’re out,” he said. He wasn’t preaching like some dour Calvinist. On the contrary. He believes it is possible to make our gardens into versions of paradise, to “have our cake and eat it, too.” The meadow grows as a fulfilled and fulfilling wish.
A paradise being unmade is where I’ve just come back from, the British Virgin Islands, having spent a week on a catamaran with the 3 guys who were my roommates my senior year in college in Kansas, along with respective significant others. They moved to New York, I to San Francisco. We swam, snorkeled, ate like royalty. The underwater life was ravishingly beautiful. We surely weren’t in Kansas anymore. It was a privilege to see such wonders. Kristen, our captain, who has done this before, mentioned the accelerating degradation of the coral. Increasing acidity of the water due to CO2 emissions will eventually kill it off if we don’t change the way we live.
Every other day we carried bags of garbage ashore from the catamaran. The second day out I went through the accumulation, picking out the plastic bottles and the beer cans and putting them into separate bags. I studied the plastic that held the strawberries sprinkled over a birthday cake. From Salinas, California. Probably sprayed to death. I wouldn’t eat them at home.
“Leave it to the Californian to try to recycle,” Kristen teased, leading me to conclude that all the stuff, sorted or not, was getting tossed on the same heap somewhere. By the third day I was tossing my beer cans in with the general trash.
In San Juan on the way home, I read an article in the New York Times about 2 valiant women who go door to door in low income housing urging people to recycle. Only 17% of garbage in New York City gets recycled, the article said.
Can we have our cake and eat it, too? With strawberries? I wonder. We are certainly going to have to eat a lot less.