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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 1-30 of 36
“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
“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
“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
“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
“To plant trees,” Russell Page wrote in his memoir, “is to give body and life to one’s dreams of a better world.”
Michael Pollan, Second Nature: A Gardener's Education
“worshippers of the market are a bit more realistic than worshippers of nature: they long ago stopped relying on the free market to supply us with such necessities as food and shelter. Though they don’t like to talk about it much, they accept the need for society to “garden” the market.)”
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
“…there is room enough for a world between a lilac and a wall.”
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
“we need, and now more than ever, to learn how to use nature without damaging it.”
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
“I reject the conventions you’ve given me for ordering this land (my land!); now watch me strike my own relationship to it.”
Michael Pollan, Second Nature: A Gardener's Education
“Weed” is not a category of nature but a human construct, a defect of our perception.”
Michael Pollan, Second Nature: A Gardener's Education
“Gardening was a subtle process of give and take with the landscape, a search for some middle ground between culture and nature.”
Michael Pollan, Second Nature: A Gardener's Education
“To look at a flower and think of sex—what exactly can this mean? Emerson wrote that “nature always wears the colors of the spirit,” by which he meant that we don’t see nature plain, only through a screen of human tropes. So in our eyes spring becomes youth, trees truths, and even the humble ant becomes a big-hearted soldier. And certainly when we look at roses and see aristocrats, old ladies and girl scouts, or symbols of love and purity, we are projecting human categories onto them, saddling them with the burden of our metaphors.”
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
“I prati, ne sono convinto, sono un sintomo e una metafora del nostro rapporto squilibrato con la terra. Ci insegnano che con l'aiuto della petrolchimica e della tecnologia possiamo piegare la natura alla nostra volontà. I prati alimentano la nostra hybris nei confronti della terra.
Qual'è l'alternativa? Trasformarli in orti e giardini. Non sto suggerendo che all'interno di questi ultimi non vi sia spazio per i prati, né che orti e giardini di per sé raddrizzeranno il nostro rapporto con la terra; l'abito mentale che essi alimentano, però, può farci percorrere un poco di strada in quella direzione. Prendersi cura di un orto o di un giardino, rispetto alla manutenzione di un prato, ci guida alla conoscenza dei comportamenti della natura, alimentando un'etica del dai e prendi nel rispetto della terra. Orti e giardini ci insegnano la peculiarità del luogo. Riducono la nostra dipendenza da fonti remote di energia, tecnologia, cibo e, per dirla tutta, interesse. Perché se tosare il prato dà la sensazione di ricopiare in continuazione la stessa frase, in una certa misura il giardinaggio è come scriverne sempre di nuove, in un processo di invenzione e scoperta infinitamente variabile. Orti e giardini ci mostrano anche che fra natura e cultura è possibile un compromesso, che fra prato e foresta - fra chi vorrebbe completare la conquista del pianeta in nome del progresso, e chi crede che per noi sia tempo di abdicare e lasciare la Terra alle cure delle sue specie più innocenti - può esserci una qualche via di mezzo. Il giardino indica che forse esiste un luogo dove noi e la natura possiamo incontrarci a metà strada.”
Michael Pollan, Second Nature: A Gardener's Education
“If I seem to have wandered far afield of weeds, consider what weeding is: the process by which we make informed choices in nature, discriminate between good and bad, apply our intelligence and sweat to the earth. To weed is to bring culture to nature—which is why we say, when we are weeding, that we are cultivating the soil. Weeding, in this sense, is not a nuisance that follows from gardening, but its very essence. And, like gardening, weeding at a certain point becomes an obligation. As I learned in my flower bed, mere neglect won’t bring back “nature.”
Michael Pollan, Second Nature: A Gardener's Education
“Among the many, many things the green thumb knows is the consolation of the compost pile, where nature, ever obliging, redeems this season’s deaths and disasters in the fresh promise of next spring.”
Michael Pollan, Second Nature: A Gardener's Education
“Lawns, I am convinced, are a symptom of, and a metaphor for, our skewed relationship to the land. They teach us that, with the help of petrochemicals and technology, we can bend nature to our will. Lawns stoke our hubris with regard to the land.”
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

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