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NORMAL IS A STATISTICAL TERM
August 13, 2003
 
"Who are you?" I ask the plant, clearly about to bloom. It doesn't answer. It has a single stem from which radiate short spiky leaves. The bloom looks to be pink, but sometime buds can fool you, and they'll open to a color other than the one that peaks through in the bud stage.

The mystery plant has three or four friends with it, all at about the same stage of development. We'll just have to wait and see.

Meanwhile, a mystery vine is growing about six inches a day over by the new rose bushes. It is tough and quite attractive, really, and it has a couple of little purple flowers. It has reached the wooden obelisk upon which the rose climbs, and at present is busily growing up it. That makes three on the obelisk: the rose itself, the clematis vine I planted to grow up with the rose, and the Mystery Lady. The rose is supposed to be the star of the show on the obelisk, but it is indolent and skimpy, despite a summer of fussing with it. So Miss Mystery is staying, for now, I decide: to the victor go the spoils.

All the lavender is well, fragrant and purple, save the one lavender plant that can grow indoors: I thought being outside would be a special treat, but she's been sulking all summer and I'm about to capitulate and bring her back in. Why a plant would rather be inside watching television in the summer than outside playing is beyond me. But then my teenagers were like that, too, and I didn't understand them, either.

I travel to Vermont for a wedding and return to find that the spiky plant with the three brothers is a Monarda. Oh -- I'd forgotten I'd planted them. It had been so long since I planted them, I'd forgotten they were there. So where were they all spring?

Organized people make a map of their gardens, like the map on the lid of a box of chocolates, so they can remember who is where from season to season. I should do that. You can even do it on your computer, if you can spare a month to figure out how. I should do that. But I don't -- I plant seeds and forget about them, find volunteers in my garden and watch them, unwilling to decide against them until I can safely conclude they are unwelcome interlopers. It takes me a long time to make that decision.

Because what is a weed but a minority flower? Who gets to say it doesn't belong? 50,000 identical petunias? An acre of coral-colored impatiens plants? I am reluctant to do to my garden what prejudice does to the human race: turn statistics into morality, so that the statistically rare becomes the morally wrong.

"Normal" is a statistical term -- it has nothing to do with good or bad. It just means "usual." As for the beauty and goodness of that which is "abnormal," there is only one way to evaluate it. Wait and see for yourself.
Copyright © 2018 Barbara Crafton
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