Plantcestry™: Beginnings

by Andrew Keys on January 11, 2010

Since I was but a wee growing thing (see photo), I’ve been enamored of everything that grows. Fronded, furred, feathered, if it was alive, it had me at hello.

As a child my affections skewed Animal –- their activeness, their personality, their easy anthropomorphism –- but as I grew, I couldn’t help but notice plants. Plants were everywhere, and I mean everywhere. Crack in the sidewalk? Plants. Compacted elementary school playground? Plants. Just about every surface or situation imaginable produced plants, plants, PLANTS. And so it followed that plants and their planty ways pitched camp in a particularly aspiring corner of my mind like gypsies, and there they’ve stayed.

You’ll find I’m a sentimental person. Nostalgia comes easily, and though I think I share the typical memories most people do of the march into adulthood, with my memories come memories of plants. Thus the Vegetable have quietly inserted themselves into every corner of my life, tendril and root, such that when I think back on family Christmas at grandparents’, my mind wanders to the Christmas fern my grandmother grew in a raised bed by the back patio, which she’d collected from a wild colony and said the roots grew to China.

Maybe it’s that inevitable march into adulthood, but at 30, I found myself ever more cognizant of the paucity of roots in my own life, my lack of connection to a past that is in any way storied. I come from a small, disparate family, my grandparents and their siblings products of a culture and an age in which clan members became more mobile, their families more nuclear. Genealogies have been traced with some success, but in the end what is a genealogy but a piece of paper? I see the connections, but I don’t feel them.

What I can say with some measure of certainty is that my ancestors, more and less immediate, were people of the land. They grew stuff, and most of the stuff they grew was plants. It’s plants, I’ve found, that give me a window into their world, and thereby a mirror of my own, and it’s through plants that I will attempt, here, to map another type of genealogy: my own natural history.

Hop on. It’s going to be interesting.

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