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Second Nature: A Gardener's Education Second Nature: A Gardener's Education by Michael Pollan
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Second Nature Quotes (showing 1-18 of 18)
“A garden should make you feel you've entered privileged space -- a place not just set apart but reverberant -- and it seems to me that, to achieve this, the gardener must put some kind of twist on the existing landscape, turn its prose into something nearer poetry.”
Michael Pollan, Second Nature: A Gardener's Education
“Anthropocentric as [the gardener] may be, he recognizes that he is dependent for his health and survival on many other forms of life, so he is careful to take their interests into account in whatever he does. He is in fact a wilderness advocate of a certain kind. It is when he respects and nurtures the wilderness of his soil and his plants that his garden seems to flourish most. Wildness, he has found, resides not only out there, but right here: in his soil, in his plants, even in himself...
But wildness is more a quality than a place, and though humans can't manufacture it, they can nourish and husband it...
The gardener cultivates wildness, but he does so carefully and respectfully, in full recognition of its mystery.”
Michael Pollan, Second Nature: A Gardener's Education
“Seeds have the power to preserve species, to enhance cultural as well as genetic diversity, to counter economic monopoly and to check the advance of conformity on all its many fronts.”
Michael Pollan, Second Nature: A Gardener's Education
“The green thumb is equable in the face of nature's uncertainties; he moves among her mysteries without feeling the need for control or explanations or once-and-for-all solutions. To garden well is to be happy amid the babble of the objective world, untroubled by its refusal to be reduced by our ideas of it, its indomitable rankness.”
Michael Pollan, Second Nature: A Gardener's Education
“Tree planting is always a utopian enterprise, it seems to me, a wager on a future the planter doesn't necessarily expect to witness.”
Michael Pollan, Second Nature: A Gardener's Education
“Mowing the lawn, I felt like I was battling the earth rather than working it; each week it sent forth a green army and each week I beat it back with my infernal machine. Unlike every other plant in my garden, the grasses were anonymous, massified, deprived of any change or development whatsoever, not to mention any semblance of self-determination. I ruled a totalitarian landscape.
Hot monotonous hours behind the mower gave rise to existential speculations. I spent part of one afternoon trying to decide who, it the absurdist drama of lawn mowing, was Sisyphus. Me? The case could certainly be made. Or was it the grass, pushing up through the soil every week, one layer of cells at a time, only to be cut down and then, perversely, encouraged (with lime, fertilizer, etc.) to start the whole doomed process over again? Another day it occurred to me that time as we know it doesn't exist in the lawn, since grass never dies or is allowed to flower and set seed. Lawns are nature purged of sex or death. No wonder Americans like them so much.”
Michael Pollan, Second Nature: A Gardener's Education
“In the same way that the picturesque designers were always careful to include some reminder of our mortality in their gardens -- a ruin, sometimes even a dead tree -- the act of leaving parts of the garden untended, and calling attention to its margins, seems to undermine any pretense to perfect power or wisdom on the part of the gardener. The margins of our gardens can be tropes too, but figures of irony rather than transcendence -- antidotes, in fact, to our hubris. It may be in the margins of our gardens that we can discover fresh ways to bring our aesthetics and our ethics about the land into some meaningful alignment.”
Michael Pollan, Second Nature: A Gardener's Education
“We are at once the problem and the only possible solution to the problem.”
Michael Pollan, Second Nature: A Gardener's Education
“Lawns are a form of television”
Michael Pollan, Second Nature: A Gardener's Education
“Of the seven deadly sins, surely it is pride that most afflicts the gardener.”
Michael Pollan, Second Nature: A Gardener's Education
“All the accomplished gardeners I know are surprisingly comfortable with failure. They may not be happy about it, but instead of reacting with anger or frustration, they seem freshly intrigued by the peony that, after years of being taken for granted, suddenly fails to bloom. They understand that, in the garden at least, failure speaks louder than success. By that I don’t mean that the gardener encounters more failure than success (though in some years he will), only that his failures have more to say to him—about his soil, the weather, the predilections of local pests, the character of his land. The gardener learns nothing when his carrots thrive, unless that success is won against a background of prior disappointment. Outright success is dumb, disaster frequently eloquent. At least to the gardener who knows how to listen.”
Michael Pollan, Second Nature: A Gardener's Education
“Much of gardening is a return, an effort at recovering remembered landscapes.”
Michael Pollan, Second Nature: A Gardener's Education
“Improving the soil improved the man.”
Michael Pollan, Second Nature: A Gardener's Education
“What memoir of childhood doesn't at some point turn on the scent of a sweet pea or a freshly cut lawn or a boxwood hedge, to leap the fence of years?”
Michael Pollan, Second Nature: A Gardener's Education
“The garden is an unhappy place for the perfectionist. Too much stands beyond our control here, and the only thing we can absolutely count on is eventual catastrophe.”
Michael Pollan, Second Nature: A Gardener's Education
“It’s astonishing, actually, how much anger an animal’s assault on your garden can incite.”
Michael Pollan, Second Nature: A Gardener's Education
“The more serious about gardening I became, the more dubious lawns seemed. The problem for me was not, as it was for my father, the relation to my neighbors that a lawn implied; it was the lawn’s relationship to nature. For however democratic a lawn may be with respect to one’s neighbors, with respect to nature it is authoritarian. Under the mower’s brutal indiscriminate rotor, the landscape is subdued, homogenized, dominated utterly. I became convinced that lawn care had about as much to do with gardening as floor waxing, or road paving. Gardening was a subtle process of give and take with the landscape, a search for some middle ground between culture and nature. A lawn was nature under culture’s boot.

Mowing the lawn, I felt like I was battling the earth rather than working it; each week it sent forth a green army and each week I beat it back with my infernal machine. Unlike every other plant in my garden, the grasses were anonymous, massified, deprived of any change or development whatsoever, not to mention any semblance of self-determination. I ruled a totalitarian landscape.

Hot monotonous hours behind the mower gave rise to existential speculations. I spent part of one afternoon trying to decide who, in the absurdist drama of lawn mowing, was Sisyphus. Me? A case could certainly be made. Or was it the grass, pushing up through the soil every week, one layer of cells at a time, only to be cut down and then, perversely, encouraged (with fertilizer, lime, etc.) to start the whole doomed process over again? Another day it occurred to me that time as we know it doesn’t exist in the lawn, since grass never dies or is allowed to flower and set seed. Lawns are nature purged of sex and death. No wonder Americans like them so much.”
Michael Pollan, Second Nature: A Gardener's Education
“It is too late in the day-there are simply too many of us now-to follow Thoreau into the woods, to look to nature to somehow cure or undo culture.”
Michael Pollan, Second Nature: A Gardener's Education