Friday, November 18, 2005

Gutsy and Goldy

Botanicidal Coincidence? You Tell Me.

Sufferin'juxtapositions! This week brought into the limelight amazingly parallel stories of sacred vegetation, their demise and their virtual and even literal rebirth. One was somewhat indirect and a bit of warmed over news - with young John Vaillant of Vancouver walking off with the Governor General's 2005 literary award in non-fiction literature for his gripping account of one big tree's felling on the Queen Charlottes aka Haida Gwaii.

This was the Golden Spruce, the great mythic symbol that appears to have made its rather belated debut in Haida cosmogony roughly concurrent with its decapitation by a wacked-out Queen Charlottes resident (if that is not an unforgivable redundancy). That most peculiar event brought forth - and few groups can do it like the Haida can - a great cultural gnashing and outpouring, quickly creating yet another potent symbol of the white man's insensitivity to the ethnological patrimony of indigenous peoples. That of course was a more intriguing and marketable narrative than the banal reality that, before its razing, the golden spruce seemed a lot more significant for the tourism sloganeering for a logging-dependent non-Native village than as an icon in the pantheon of local indigenous tradition.

Well, lest Vaillant is now running on empty for topics of comparable ethnobotanical import, he need no longer worry: for another horrendous act of vegi-cide has sprouted up far across the vast Pacific from the Misty Isles. Recently the town of Aioi, in the Japanese prefecture of Hyogo, watched admiringly as a massive daikon (white radish) indomitably thrust itself through untold layers of pavement into the sunshine and, likewise, into the hearts of locals who dubbed it (one presumes in some dialect of thereabouts), "Gutsy". Like the golden spruce, albeit at a scale in all ways of shorter stature, Gutsy quickly became the subject of local folklore, even idolatry. Defying the oppressive overlayers of that abominable foreign devil, road asphalt, it rose, a veritable phallus puncturing the alien substance! But then - O day of infamy! - last Thursday, an unseen maniacal phyto-assassin, working in the dead of night, just as on the Charlottes, hacked the top off Gutsy leaving his severed remains hither and yon. And as with the felling of the spruce so far away, outbursts of horror and tears were then globally reported.

Can all this be just coincidence?

As you may or may not remember the perpetrator back in the Charlottes, one Grant Hadwin, vanished shortly after the crime, whilst kayaking across Hecate Strait towards his arraignment. Lost at sea? Well you might have thought, but if our literary Holmes, Mr. Valliant can use his acumen and some of that prize money to patiently stake out at Aioi, the bigger truth that is out there may, at last, spring forth like the offspring of Gutsy and Goldy themselves that now are being nurtured through the skills of culturally competent botanists.