underdiscussed benefit of auditory processing issues is that I’m basically immune to catcalling because I fully. do not understand a single word of what people are saying. half the time I barely realise it’s me they’re talking to because it‘s not like I can figure it out based on content and context clues. there’s just Some Guys Yelling on the other side of the street, and it barely occurs to me to feel addressed because I am, at any given time, too busy thinking about the menacing duality of rhododendrons

#great point but would you mind elaborating on the menacing duality of rhododendrons real quick  @saintgulik I would not mind elaborating AT ALL, but I absolutely cannot promise it’ll be quick

[content note for discussions of imperialism, colonialism, and 19th century racist attitudes after “attain a hi-vis vest and a chainsaw and get to work”]

so basically this started with me reading Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca for the first time when I was in my third year of uni, and being deeply fascinated by all the plant imagery to the point where I wrote half an essay analysing certain aspects of it

this was also a time when I was for the first time developing a deeper environmental consciousness and started paying more attention to the plants and nature around me

and the thing is, I grew up in an area with very alkaline soil, which rhododendrons do not grow in at all, so I’d never actually seen any until moving out to go to university (in a place with much more acidic soil)

so I’m reading this book about a deeply insecure young woman feeling menaced by the plants that still attest to the presence and influence of her predecessor in every part of the house and garden, while also taking spring walks marvelling at shrubs covered in more and bigger and more colourful blossoms than I have ever seen on a single plant in my entire life, they come in pink and purple and crimson and orange and yellow and venous red, they come thick and solid and large as my palm and they come in translucid white that seems to melt as soon as the still-cold rain touches them, they grow in the beds around university buildings and form their own grove in the botanic garden and greet me on my walks through the neighbourhood and are threatening to take over the entire stretch of land on the other side of the river. they are an aggressive explosion of colour and life after a long winter with six daily hours of watery sunlight, in a city where every building is grey.

you could say they left an impression.

but I’m also reading about how they’re poisonous and honey produced from their pollen is known as “mad honey.” I’m reading about how they’re highly invasive, how their roots will spread out and rise up to form entire new shrubs, how they’ll take over whole gardens and estates, how under their dense leaf cover everything else dies because the other plants don’t get enough light, how it can take years of cutting back the plants again and again before the sprawling roots are finally starved enough to really die. I’m reading about how rhododendron thickets will be eerily quiet, empty, because animals find no food there.

the Happy Valley from Rebecca turns into a death zone in my mind.

basically to me rhododendrons are an object of ongoing interest and aesthetic pleasure and a source of marvel, but also I can never look at them without being haunted by the thought of their disastrous ecological impact and feeling the vague urge to attain a hi-vis vest and a chainsaw and get to work

so those are the thoughts on the menacing duality proper, but following
from that I have some further (not yet very cohesive) thoughs on rhododendrons and the British Empire, because the thing is –

the thing is, the native range of rhododendrons fucking huge, but a lot of
the fancy
ornamental ones are originally from East and Southeast Asia and
especially the Himalaya region, and it kind of makes you wonder, where did these approximately fifty different species of rhododendron in these English gardens come from and who brought them here?

the thing is, Rebecca is, though not a direct retelling, very much in dialogue with and commenting on Jane Eyre, a book which infamously confines its “madwoman” to the literal (and now proverbial) attic because she’s a Creole woman who has been ““corrupted”“ by foreign influences in the colonised Caribbean, and is no longer seen as white or “civilised” enough to make an appropriate spouse for the rich, white, English love interest.

the thing is, the titular Rebecca is the equivalent of Antoinette-Bertha Cosway-Mason-Rochester, the haunting, bothersome, difficult to control spectre from the colonies who gets in the way of the white English couple’s perfect happiness. the thing is, Rebecca is persistently associated with rhododendrons, which wind their way into everything and every place, and are nearly impossible to contain

the thing is, when you go out brutally subjugating and exploiting a quarter of the world, you inevitably end up interacting with a lot of different cultures, and no matter how much you keep preaching the superiority of your own, those cultures are going to affect you. fear of incursion, of the dominant (white, British, imperialist) culture being changed, diluted, weakened by influences from colonised cultures, develops as the British Empire expands. and then you get people arguing that, actually, all of this brutal slaughter and colonising and violence is also making Britain and British people worse (wow, what a surprise). and you also get people in Aotearoa New Zealand growing the same flowers that are fashionable in England, and putting them in blocks of ice to be shipped to Europe (which would have taken MONTHS) and judged in a flower show, to demonstrate how successfully they have been “civilising” this part of the world. and basically I have a tangled mess of thoughts and associations in my head about what Rebecca and English gardening and colonialism have to do with each other, and maybe one day I’ll manage to unravel it enough to write it into an actual thesis