defining (l'esprit de l'escalier—Treppenwitz)

Of course, there’s that Meredith Brooks’ song with the wonderful chorus, you don’t think about it nor laugh, you’re in a room with people you do not really know and you’re asked to stand up with a marker and write on the wall things that define you, feels like you’ve perhaps fallen into a trap, but no, this is my life and I will learn from this. There is an expression that does not exist in English, as T reminded me, about thinking of a witty thing to say only once you have left the room and are coming down the stairs, so obviously I spent the following days listing other words in my head that may have worked better. Goat-keeper, enthuser, maker, rooter. Ah, yes, rooter ; I read [reader] in a Mother Earth News newsletter the other day that basil will root if kept into a glass of water, really ??? I dutifully stuck some branches in water [experimenter] checking every ten minutes or so [exxagerator] if anything was happening, expecting the root to come out of the branching point (there is a proper word for this, the eye or the bud, I think). About 10 days later, the miracle happened, and this is another kind of rooting altogether, multiple and from the cutting point, and I am sure there is also a proper word for this that I do not yet know [learner]. One thing I love [lover] about plants is when they show their amazing determination and power to live, to survive, to multiply, when I see this I realize there simply isn’t room for despair (I read in E’s National Geographic that we share 40 per cent of our DNA with rice, and rice can really be called a survivor).
See how they looked before I potted them so that they could turn into little individual plants (kitchen-table cloning):
ImageBasil plants and I have a history together. When I was growing up determined to end up in the country and farm in the future I had somehow decided that I could not really grow plants (how ? why? who said?). One day in the early Summer of 1995 while I still lived an urban life in an upstairs flat I bought a packet of basil seeds and sprinkled all of them on a little tray hoping that at least a couple would germinate. They all did. I gave a lot away [giver, sharer] and grew wonderful plants in the bathroom (damp, sunny but not so warm) that survived into December. The most interesting point is that in the Autumn of 1995, while my basil was happily growing in my bathroom, I was hit and almost killed by a carelessly driven car [survivor].
Last year was the first year that I thought of freezing pesto (minus the parmesan) and that was also a turning point in my life (is there an adequate word for the joy of unfreezing a little pot of perfectly green pesto in the middle of the winter?) and I am busy preparing little presents for us for the colder days [planner]. Alive and grateful again today.
How does Jean-Luc Godard put it ?
“Se définir en un seul mot ? Pas encore mort.” (a single word to define you ? Not yet dead.)Image.


  1. Here on my NH mountain about half way up and like you not yet dead. But god are there not entirely too many ways of dying?
    Dying go around me go around me please.
    And yes on plants (basil) wanting to clone/live/carry on. One of the great lessons of the garden is a plant’s will to live.

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