Friday, September 14, 2012

UNDER THE WILD GINGER – The Birth of a Book Title

(PART 2 OF 2 – For part 1, click HERE)

(In part one, I shared a rather detached view of the wild ginger plant—its habitat, range and reputation. Now, in part two, it gets personal.)

BROUGHT TO MY KNEES
So, I'm out walking around my neighborhood one fine June evening. I'm soaking in everything—the colors, the sounds, the smells, the way the air feels—as we northerners do after six months of cold, dark-grayness.

In one yard, right along the sidewalk, I come across this patch of ground cover, a solid mat of satiny, heart-shaped leaves. And I don't know what possesses me, but some instinct, perhaps one of those spontaneous, child-like curiosities that manage to slip out now and then from under the weight of our grown-up preoccupations, makes me bend down and separate the leaves.

It's too dark down there to see much, so I kneel down, bend over and take a closer look.

There in the cool, dark bower under that leafy canopy, nestled at the base of the stems, is a flower, a precious little three-lobed, burgundy orchid-like bloom, as beguiling as something illustrated in a fairy tale. And there are more, scattered among the hairy stems.


WHAT'S IN A NUMBER?
I didn't know at the time that what I'd explored was wild ginger (Asarum Canadense), but thank goodness for Google! The information settled nicely into my mental catalog of such fine little discoveries.

I learned that those amazing little hidden flowers have three sepals (botanically distinct from petals), that they bloom from late spring through early summer, and that, because they're so well hidden, they have to attract ants and other crawling insects to pollinate them.


Flash forward about ten years. I'd been writing essays about how I've been able to notice and celebrate life's—and Nature's—small wonders. I happened to send a couple of them to my old friend, Charlie, in Boston. He wrote back, "Hey, these are pretty good; if you could come up with about 50 of 'em, you'd have a book."

This was the first time the notion of a book even entered my mind. I went right to my laptop and counted my essays. I had 51.

TEN-SECOND TITLE
So I started reviewing those essays, looking for a common theme, a thread that would tie them all together. As it turned out, nearly every one of them involved not just being aware and in the moment, but also an additional element, an extra measure of curiosity, patience, creativity or faith.

So there it was, a book in the making. But a good book needs a strong, evocative title, so what would it be? It took me about ten seconds to decide. I remembered my magical introduction to wild ginger, that moment when I could easily have thought what a handsome plant! and kept on walking.

It was the perfect metaphor for curiosity, the kind that requires that one extra, curious step. It was an inviting image I believed would draw people to my message. I knew I had my title.

Under the Wild Ginger – Order it now by clicking the Order tab at the top of this page.

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