We've all seen them. The bulging eyes moving frantically from side to side seeking an exit. Antic feet sliding sideways in a fruitless attempt to escape. The dazed expressions that signify aural and mental overload. Saliva pooling and drool overflowing as the higher cognitive functions are beaten down and dulled. All of these and more the signs of a normal person trapped in a zealot's snare, unable to fly to freedom against the onrushing tide of words and enthusiasm.
Such was the lot of a few poor souls this week when I gave a Tuesday Talk at the K-State Rose Garden sponsored by The Friends of the KSU Gardens. I'd been tapped several months ago to talk about the Garden and rose history in general during a walk around the rose garden and my anticipation had built up to the boiling point, but at last the scheduled time had arrived. A half-hour came and went in an instant as I poured forth a partially coherent stream of information about rose classes and the AARS and the Gamble Fragrance Award and rose breeders and anti-Knock-Out-ism. No one actually ran from the venue, and no children were permanently scarred by the lecture, but I'm concerned that several attendees will require some recovery time before they can again look at a rose as a simple lovely flower.
Zealots and fanatics can both be defined as being "marked by excessive enthusiasm and often intense uncritical devotion". Synonyms for the words include "rabid", "bigoted," "phrenetic," and "mad." Winston Churchill is quoted as saying "A fanatic is one who can't change his mind and won't change the subject." All right, I hear all that, but I still don't understand why zealotry is seen as a bad thing.
I put to you that little progress would be made in the World without a zealot or three or four challenging The Man. Yes, the world might be a calmer place and there might be fewer wars, but without a little irrational enthusiasm, little gardening would be done. Who among us would garden if we didn't conveniently forget annually that every year the quail would come to eat the corn before it sprouted, that a late frost would nip the first tomatoes we put out, and that a drought in August will always cause us to carry water daily for the pumpkins? And if some fanatic doesn't pick up the torch of rose snobbery and defend the Old Garden Roses, who among us will stand to speak out against scentless and bland 'Knock Out'?
Somewhere out there, I hope I planted a seed at the lecture. A seed that will grow and cause someone to shun the Big Box Stores and their 'Knock Out's in favor of a real rose. Perhaps an English/Austin hybrid, or a mail-order Gallica, or a hard-won Griffith Buck-bred 'EarthSong' or an EarthKind-recognized rose? A rose worthy of the name rather than just another colored flowering shrub. Such incremental changes are the lifeblood of a zealot and I'm proud to be so labeled if I can cause yet another 'Knock Out' to dry up on the shelf, unpurchased. And, somewhere along the way, provide a little aid and comfort to the Friends of the KSU Gardens.
(Author's note; The picture above is of the "Rose" statue in front of the KSU Rose Garden, surrounded, ironically in light of this blog entry, by 'Livin Easy' roses).