Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Foxgloves and Robert Burns

One task I completed on Sunday -- and forgot to mention in yesterday's post -- is repotting the foxgloves that a co-worker gave me in October. These are different from the ones I grew from seed, which are an apricot pink variety. These are supposedly purple, closer to the wild foxglove. They've spent all this time in a plastic seed tray, and I decided to put them in pots in the hopes that they'd grow a bit more before spring comes along.

They're much smaller than the seedlings I grew myself and repotted back in September...

...which look downright robust, don't they?

At work yesterday I spent the afternoon in a training session focused on transgenderism and trans issues -- specifically, what terminology to use with trans people, how to think about gender in terms of a spectrum rather than two binary poles, stuff like that. We considered different ways to respond to various scenarios involving trans people, from providing facilities and equal educational opportunities to dealing with colleagues who may be dismissive or insulting.

It was pretty interesting. I went in thinking I was fairly hip, but even I struggled with some tasks and discussion points. This is all pertinent because in recent years, we've had a few kids declare themselves trans at our school. We need to know more about how to support them. (Just last week, in fact, a boy started coming to my desk each day wearing eye shadow and lipstick -- I'm not sure yet what's going on there.)

In the morning I sorted old yearbooks. We had a huge stash of yearbooks in our conference room cabinets, but some of them were damaged by a staff member who used to cut out pictures to make birthday collages for students. That staff member is retired now, so I boxed up the damaged books to be shredded, and put the others back in the cabinet. (This is separate from the yearbook archive I created last year. These are just spares.)

Speaking of our conference room cabinets -- here, just for the heck of it, is a photo of an extremely old book in our library. It's a small volume of poems by Robert Burns, and my boss said it was actually on the shelf when she came to our school about ten years ago. It's since been removed from the circulating collection and relegated to a display cabinet, along with other ancient or otherwise delicate volumes.

We have other books of Burns poems in the collection, so his tim'rous beasties and crowlin ferlies are still accessible to students. (They're all online now anyway!)

As you can see, the cover is barely hanging together. In fact the entire spine is missing -- it's only got the two end boards, which have been covered in plastic library laminate. I suspect the book has been destroyed from a true bibliophile's point of view, but it's still kind of interesting. I wonder if Joseph H. Bradley (whoever he was) would be surprised to find it still in existence 161 years after he signed his name inside the back cover?


  1. The boy with the eye shadow and lipstick probably perceives you as a sympathetic adult to whom he can relate - someone who might listen to him without judging him. Growing up is hard enough for anyone but when that process is accompanied by confused sexual identity issues it must be exceedingly difficult. May I suggest that you have a new desk sign made:
    "Mr S.Reed - Librarian, Recycling Adviser, Foxglove Grower, Nosy Parker, Photographer & Transgender Counsellor" - much better than the previous sign that read simply "Fuck Off".

  2. those new foxglove seedlings look pretty spindly...maybe they'll catch up. i have a trans nephew, and one of the things I've discovered is that i need to keep my assumptions in check! being young is so difficult, and when you're dealing with gender identity issue - well, just up the difficulty factor by a LOT! i hope he keeps coming back to your desk, he obviously feels safe/right with you. the book that has disintegrated is a marvel -- I have a leather bound book from my great great grandmother that she signed for christmas 158 years ago. it is a photo album (family of professional photographers) and inscribed beautifully by her hand. a treasure. the spine has separated (about 15 years ago) and I sometimes toy with the idea of having it restored, but so far, no dice.

  3. I like the idea of looking at gender identity as a range or spectrum. So few things with self identity are straightforward or clear-cut.
    A school with books that old must be a remarkable place, and to be the keeper of those books - how fascinating.

  4. I think it's fantastic that people are becoming aware that gender is far more complex than we were led to believe. As you know, I have a bit of experience in this regard and yet, I realize constantly that there is so much more to learn, to understand. I think it all boils down to acceptance. And if we mess up pronouns now and then, it's best to apologize and move on. They will understand.
    I suppose it's a little like your Foxgloves- humans come in so many varieties and colors and have different needs and feel comfortable in different environments and thrive at different times. Yet all of us have some basics in need. As the foxgloves need soil and water and sun, humans need acceptance and love and respect.
    I love the lipstick and eyeliner. Hey! Mick Jagger was doing it fifty years ago! He's turned out well.
    And goodness! That certainly WAS an old book to still be on the shelf!

  5. I wish I could have gone to that same training you took. In fact, I might look for something similar. There is at least one person working where I work who I struggle to identify. I don't work directly with this person but I see them all the time. I want to be respectful but I think I could use more knowledge on the subject.
    That Burns book is amazing. I love old books.

  6. Your photos of the potted foxgloves make me wish I had thought to do some seed starts from the zillions of seeds we had scattered about. Maybe next year, if I remember.
    I do like the idea of acknowledging that gender identity is a range or spectrum. It really helps to put human sexuality into some perspective.

  7. Now spectrum is a good word. I have for a long time thought that gender issues should be thought of as a sliding scale. Not just black and white definitions. Now this is the first time I've heard about spectrum. I probably misses it before. There had been no gender issue workshops when I retired.

  8. encouraging to see some people at least are being proactive in accepting that human sexuality is not this or that. good on your school. your foxgloves are doing great. I planted some a few years ago. we even did a carved glass sidelite for a guy once that was just the long tall spike of the flowers, a few leaves at the bottom.

  9. From a new world's concerns to examination of an old book. You have covered all the bases today, including your gardening report.

  10. I am always grateful for school environments that allow children to become who they know themselves to be, without judgment or cruelty, with acceptance and understanding and a heart and will to support their unfolding. And I agree with YP, that child in lipstick and eye shadow feels safe with you, seen by you.

  11. I love the plants and can't wait to see photos of them in bloom. How interesting this seminar must have been. It will be interesting to see how this will be handled.

    I remember from my childhood, my grandfather lived in a big house in Quincy, MA. The streets were cobble stone, and in the center of the street across from Grandpa's house was a huge statue of Robert Burns sitting on a horse. My grandpa used to enjoy his drink, and would go out and polish that statue when he was feeling rather warm and tipsy. Thank you for the memories. You have a wonderful day, hugs, Edna B.

  12. I love YP's idea for a new sign for your desk. Much better and more descriptive than the old one :)

    I'm reading a book set in the future (2050s maybe?) & the main character was talking to a young woman who said that she was gender fluid & should be addressed as Mx instead of Miss. He was nonplussed (I suspect that the author might not be on my side of the liberal spectrum), but I thought it was pretty clever. Of course, for all I know, that salutation is already in use today. I might need some education my own self!

  13. I think we all struggle with identity, in one way or another. I've been having an existential crisis for several years now. It is difficult to understand how to address trans people without offending and good we all strive to do better.
    Have you seen the movie "Normal" with Jessica Lange? A married man who believes he is a woman and decides to change his gender. It is very moving and very good.

  14. Old books and old letters (or even signatures) are like old photos to me - a moment in time frozen forever, and fascinating.

    The only terminology I have trouble with is using "they" for one person. I know it's meant to convey plural identities, but it makes me so mixed up to hear it and not know if it refers to one person or an infinite number, especially in something like a newspaper article where the journalist may or may not be bringing more people into the discussion. I kind of wish there was a different pronoun that would work just as well and be clearer. Whether that pronoun would be used for a multi-gendered person (singular) or in the historical way (plural) wouldn't matter, as long as we could know what we're talking about. Anyone is welcome to chime in here with help for me, if you have any!