Thursday, December 9, 2010

Fulfillment and desire

Paraquilegia microphylla, on a high granitic ridge above Almaty in the Tien Shan of Kazakhstan in early July of 2009. For years I dreamed about this plant. Way back in the 1970's Boyd Kline collected seed of its cousin, Paraquilegia grandiflora in Kashmir: I will never forget the pictures he showed of the high crags where it grew and the cushions like this one on the cliffs, and I thought would I ever see it? Would I ever grow it?

Boyd gave me seed, and I did grow it and bloomed it several years in a row in the Rock Alpine Garden in the early 1980's: it was pure white and every bit as condensed as this form. This past September I saw the third of the three closely related species, Paraquilegia caespitosa in the Western Tian Shan on Ulken Kaindy Pass in the Djabagly nature reserve. Should I now not be replete? Fulfilled? Why is there still a burning desire to seek more of these gems out in more places. After all, I have not yet seen Paraquilegia grandiflora in the wild, nor have I seen P. caespitosa in bloom. It's true they are sometimes all lumped into one all this may be moot in some ways...I say Pshaw to lumpers! I do not doubt that new forms--perchance even species--are clinging to high cliffs, waiting to be found.

What does it mean "to yearn?" To lust for something and then suddenly it's drifting irrevocably into the past. The past is really just as inaccessible as the future, you know. How few people have the privilege I have enjoyed to go not once, but twice to the Tien Shan. Shouldn't I just rest on my laurels, and be content to bask in the glow of these images that I, myself, once took?
Like Don Juan in Hell (my favorite of Shaw's fine dramas) hell is contentment and complacency. Hell is fulfillment, an easy chair and violins. Heaven is to strive, to yearn to desire. And never to give up.
I hope one day to grow all the paraquilegias in my garden, in troughs in pots. I want them supersized (as they say in commercials) and in excess. I want to seek them out in the Pamir, in the Hindu Kush, in the West of China. I want to visit them in their secret hiding places in Mongolia and across all the stans. Of course, the little rascals only choose to grow in the highest, most inaccessible and inhospitable cliffs on planet earth: who cares? I shall not be content until I have seen every last Paraquilegia across their range of thousands of miles (both latitude and longitude incidentally) in the fastness of Asia, until I have sniffed and nuzzled and adored every last bud and blossom of Paraquilegia on planet earth. Then, and only then, will I be truly fulfilled.
(We humans are hopeless, really. Don't you agree?)


  1. Even J. Rock was taken with them as his gaze was turned to the trees and shrubs- of course little escaped his eye and he had plenty of time. His photographs of them are certainly as captivating- even in b&w. Perhaps you might be able as he was to live for several months in one or a few spots and take your time discovering them.
    Of course you might be reborn as one on a high mountain,...

  2. Rock was amazing. I would love to follow in his footsteps! I often dream of Lijiang (I would happily spend more time there)...

    Over jet lag yet?

  3. Barely- Stopping in Germany when coming from the other side of the planet is not a bad idea,...unfortunately we only had 7 hrs to stupify in Frankfurters Lufthavn before passing out on the 9.5 hr flight to Denver for another 3.5 hr layover,...
    Rock's last trip to China ended badly- he got neuralgia so bad he got on several flights to Boston to get surgery then flew all the way back only to be kicked out by Mao.


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