Yesterday I was gardening in the yard of the house we are taking care of, and I noticed I let the spiral & sphere topiary garden go to seed. So out came the blunt, rusted garden shears and I was cutting away, trying desperately not to destroy the unnatural shapes they were teased into in the first place. As I was hacking I got to thinking who says things have to be this way? I was feeling guilty slashing away at the plant's progress, ruling that it had to grow this way and not that. People get that sort of training all the time and it is maddening-- the impossibilty of standards are always begin thrown at us through commercials and publications. Isn't airbrushing a photo of a bikini-clad woman in a magazine the same thing? No, your thighs can't touch. I don't care if it's unnatural. And the more I snipped the more I began thinking about the ways I "snip" myself. Shaving my bikini line, hiding my split ends with copious amounts of sesame oil, even spending a few hours baking topless in the back garden's sunlight. None of these things are good for me-- they don't improve my health. Shaving gives me cuts and upset follicles, the ends of my hair are dead anyway, and tanning is just a step toward skin cancer. I mean, I'm dark enough naturally, and who really gives a damn how copper my skin can be?
The first time I went to Paris I was 17 and shocked to see the very strict grooming that nature received. The trees in the Jardin des Tuileries are chiseled into leafy boxes so the air is filled with these symmetrical building blocks stuck on the end of a long trunk. Conversely, the metro signs are wrought from tendrils of iron curling around art nouveau letters like grape vines. Art mimicking nature and nature mimicking art. Bizarre, I thought. But now I see it as a straight-forward admittance of human nature: to dominate nature completely, even the nature of the self.
I'm not sure this is healthy all the time. Actually, I feel comfortable saying that most of the time it's not healthy at all. The topiary is finished, but I am still thinking.