Friday, June 19, 2009

June: Boojum!

The Hunting of the Snark is an epic poem by Lewis Carroll. If you recognize the title of this blog, you can probably guess that I have some love for Carroll, who did more than write the Alice books and have inappropriate relationships with little girls. The Hunting of the Snark outlines a hunting trip in which a motley band of misfits whose titles begin with B hunt the elusive Snark in some far-off land. Some Snarks are rumored also to be Boojums, a horrifying possibility that the band is unwilling to accept. None of this makes any sense of course; like Jabberwocky, you just roll with it, relish the language and rhymes, and say "wtf??" to yourself once in a while. Carroll reputedly wrote the entire epic after the final line popped into his head out of the blue one day. He may or may not have been stoned on absinthe and laudanum as well. (I made that last part up but hey, if Coleridge can write Kubla Khan after an opium-induced hallucination, anything is possible!)

And thus I have a special fondness for the Boojum Tree at the Desert House of the Garfield Park Conservatory in Chicago. It's a crazy-looking tree endemic to the Baja Peninsula and state of Sonora in Mexico. Fouquieria (or Idria) columnaris is related to the ocotillo, a spiny plant familiar to anyone who has spent time in Arizona. I wouldn't say the Boojum is attractive, exactly, but it's rare and interesting and dangerous-looking and through the magic of conservatories it's growing right here in Chicago.


What does our intrepid hero, the Baker, have to say about it?

"But if ever I meet with a Boojum, that day,

In a moment (of this I am sure),
I shall softly and suddenly vanish away--
And the notion I cannot endure!"

Luckily for us, this Boojum is entirely non-lethal and does not cause involuntary vanishification.


The Baker unfortunately met with a less friendly instance of Boojumness...

In the midst of the word he was trying to say,

In the midst of his laughter and glee,
He had softly and suddenly vanished away---
For the Snark *was* a Boojum, you see.


Monica the Garden Faerie said...

Bananas! I loved Alice but never read his other works... I can see I need to go to the library. Dear Lord did he really have inappropriate relationships with little girls? I was hoping that wasn't true...

Chicago Garden said...

I had no idea about the little girls thing.

Tell, me did reading about Boojums make you want to grow one? I've wanted a Baobab tree ever since I read The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry.

Diane said...

It was more of a Michael Jackson-style inappropriateness, a grown man who spends way too much time with other people's children but without any evidence of actual misbehavior.

I'd love a Boojum of my own - and heck, a baobab would be nice, too!