A Rose By Any Other Name Would Be A Dead Weight


I’m in A Mood today. I was going to write, for no special reason, but that would be a lie. It all started yesterday, in a rose bed not far from my house.

Roses are a Big Deal here. (They don’t call Portland the Rose City for nothing.) Roses grow like weeds, to the point you can feel rose-intoxicated by taking a breath as you walk down any street. Tourists who want to see roses can go to the International Rose Test Gardens— such a spectacular display that the breathtaking view of Mt. Hood can seem like a distraction. But there are also fabulous gardens in parks across the city.

My bed is one of the dozens– hundreds?– that make up the four rose gardens of Ladd’s Addition. There are protocols in these gardens. Basically, you never touch another person’s bed. But if a bed doesn’t have a sign saying it’s been adopted, then you can pitch in as needed.

As I worked on my bed, it was hard to miss the dire condition of one nearby. I decided it was time to pitch in.

Not long after I started, a woman appeared– in bare feet (in a rose garden!?). She sort of quizzed me on my knowledge of rose care and seemed dissatisfied with my responses. I told her I’d had the “official” training and had been caring for Chihuly. I was nervous, trying to be polite and respectful– she seemed to know a great deal.
large rose garden with fountain

Peninsula Park Rose Garden, discovered on an afternoon stroll

She said she’d been enjoying the roses from her porch all season and had become concerned when she saw so many branches “disappearing,” as she said. I showed her how a large stalk had cracked under the weight of the dead blooms so she would understand. “Oh, I would cut that right off,” she said, cautioning me against the risk of disease. I hastened to follow directions as she casually drifted over to my bed, pulled at some of the trimmed branches to see where I had cut. She made approving noises and stepped back. “Your bed looks lovely,” she said. Duh. Of course it did. I’m a gardener, dammit.

When she said she should probably adopt a bed, I said that since she’d come over in bare feet, she must live close enough that it would be easy. Oh, she replied, she’d have to wander down to a neighborhood work party some Saturday morning to see who was volunteering. Did I just imagine that she waggled her fingers “toodle-ooh” as she wandered back to her porch, her wine?

I wasn’t being snarky, just earnest. Honest. And, just for the record, the volunteer coordinator cheered me for standing up for the roses.

This morning, no one is cheering, least of all, me. I’ve been reading articles, scanning through calls for journal manuscripts. Desiccated, wrong-headed, elitist ideas about teaching and learning thread their ways through the pages. It’s like no one sees that these are at work, dragging on our teachers, our schools; splintering our youth and any joy for learning they might have left.

I’ve closed the journals. The sun is out. I’m going to take a deep breath and go outside. Maybe back to the damned rose garden to get another bed in shape.

So there.
 From a 2015 visit to the Rose Test Gardens


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2 responses to “A Rose By Any Other Name Would Be A Dead Weight”

  1. Adrienne says:

    People are funny, aren’t they. And I don’t mean haha funny. I am also in Portland, OR and have 3 neglected rose bushes between my back door and the apartment complex next door. I have adopted them and do the best I can, though I am not a very good rose gardener.

    • Karen says:

      Nice to meet a kindred rose warrior. ?Congratulations to both of us for trying! I imagine that my friend from the rose garden might hear me talking about education and roll her eyes….

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