Saturday Morning, April

Today, self is browsing gardening books on Amazon. Her bible (for the last couple of years, the book that taught her which plants to buy, when) is something she picked up from the museum shop at The Huntington, near LA, seven years ago: Robert Smaus’ 52 Weeks in the California Garden. Until she started reading that book, she had never known that there existed a system to the way nurseries stock plants, and that system is determined by heat. Poor self, who grew up in the Philippines and knew nothing about clematis, hydrangeas, helleborus, campanula, lamb’s ears, daffodils, etc etc etc. Anyhoo, after she bought that book, she began to have a dim inkling of how a garden takes shape.

This morning, self is looking for a book on cottage gardens. And she figures she’ll just mosey on over to Amazon and see what is available. When she browses the words “the cottage garden,” she comes up with 10,363 results. Oh how she loves Amazon, the sense it gives her of the largeness of the world.

So, scrolling down the first 12 choices, she finds there many interesting books with gorgeous pictures, but the only ones self thinks she wants are the ones published in the UK (home of cottage gardening, after all). Christopher Lloyd sounds like an English name, so she clicks on his book, Cottage Garden, and yes, he is English.

Then there is English Cottage Gardening: For American Gardeners, but in spite of the title, 8 of the 10 featured gardens are in the UK (self wants a book about English cottage gardens, but would find it disheartening to look at pictures of mostly English gardens — she knows that is supremely contradictory, but anyhoo)

There’s even a book called English Cottage Gardens that is only 51 cents, used! Oh, so many many books, so little time!

(And now, self must stop, for Gracie has been whimpering with hunger for the last hour. Stay tuned, dear blog readers, stay tuned.)

Suspended Animation: The Beginning

Self is currently reading Wendy Moore’s absolutely fascinating account of the life of John Hunter, considered the father of modern surgery. If self thought some parts of CSI were appetite-destroying (especially as hubby insists on watching while we are having dinner), that show has nothing on The Knife Man. A very interesting chapter focuses on Hunter’s fascination with exploring “suspended states of animation” as a way of prolonging life.

First, Hunter gets a friend to assist him in freezing two carp in “a tub filled with ice and snow.” Instead of the carp freezing, however, “the ice around the fish kept melting, leading Hunter to realize that animals generated heat . . . ” (which self thinks is an absolutely ground-breaking discovery, dear blog readers!)

Moore describes the rest of the escapade thus: “the carp continued to swim freely,” while Hunter and his accomplice “shoveled in more snow until, by now almost frozen themselves, they were forced to give up.”

Undeterred, Hunter “repeated the experiment on a dormouse” but once again he was “defeated by natural body temperature.” That is, although he succeeded in getting the mouse’s feet to freeze, “it survived the extreme cold, living to preen its whiskers once more.”

Hunter tried again on a second dormouse (and, by the way, can anyone tell self what the difference is between a “dormouse” and a regular “mouse”?). This time, the animal did die and “soon became stiff.” But, much to Hunter’s disappointment, upon “being thawed,” the animal remained “quite dead.”

Hunter’s disappointment at the outcome of these experiments was keen. As he explained:

Till this time, I had imagined that it might be possible to prolong life to any period by freezing a person in the frigid zone, as I thought all action and waste would cease until the body was thawed. I thought that if a man would give up the last ten years of his life to this kind of alternative oblivion and action, it might be prolonged to a thousand years; and by getting himself thawed every hundred years, he might learn what had happened during his frozen condition. Like other schemers, I thought I should make my fortune by it; but this experiment undeceived me.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers, stay tuned.

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