I’ve often posed this question, alas without response. Little wonder really, since current thought has it that human/plant communication is still a one way street – the verbal side of it anyway. I chat away to the plants in my garden, dispensing encouragement or disappointment depending on performance and expectations, but to date have not had a single one speak up.
Now this creates something of a problem when it comes to identifying the correct botanical classification. How much simpler it would be if I could just ask, ‘who are you, what’s your name?’. Plants and cuttings gifted to me, or those I’ve bought from market stalls are sometimes of unknown origin, named according to their grower’s whim, like Grandma’s Ground Lily or old Tom’s Fancy Nancy bush, giving no clue to botanical identity. Why is this a problem?
Some might say it matters because we don’t want to unwittingly introduce weeds into our gardens. But what is one gardener’s weed but another gardener’s treasured plant? Isn’t it just a rose by any other name?
As serendipity and the wild meanderings of thought would have it, I was simultaneously pondering the notion of spiegel at the time. I won’t launch into why at this point; suffice to say the connection is a question of self identity. ‘Spiegel’ being German for mirror as I understand it. It led me to revisit social theories in the dark and dusty filing system that is my brain.
I thought about how humans might rely on others for knowing who they are at their core, beyond the numerous social roles assigned to them like daughter, sister, mother, wife and so on. Social roles are kind of like taxonomies if you were a plant for example, which I am not, at least I wasn’t the last time I looked, despite the expanding garden under my fingernails.
No, I’m talking about what the most influential people in our lives ‘mirror’ back to us about our identities – about who we are.
Friends play an important part in this process. They confirm, reassure, give credit and gentle admonishment. They, unlike our family, are bound to us by choice. We are precious plants in their gardens because they have chosen to nurture us, not to ‘weed’ us out. We see our most favoured version of self reflected in their eyes.
Someone once said ‘eyes are the windows to our souls’. They were referring to what our own eyes reveal to others about who we are. But seeing our ‘self’ mirrored through the eyes of a trusted other may be the closest thing we have to understanding who we really are.
The moral of this story: choose your ‘identity gardeners’ carefully.
Visit my ‘garden of friends’ here.