Saturday, January 9, 2010

"America's Answer to Guy de Maupassant:"The Inspiration Behind the Title of My Blog, The Last Leaf Gardener (TLLG)

Patricia Youngquist uses words and images to tell stories about her passions. Based in New York, she currently is authoring a series of nature books on birds of the city. Now in Apple’s iBooks store @ https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/words-in-our-beak/id1010889086?mt=11

With this post which will mark the first post of my from now on weekly postings (with the exception of the dates I stated in my first post (and an occasional post in between on certain Saturdays if a special event occurs), I’d like to take a moment to tell you about the title of my blog, The Last Leaf Gardener (TLLG)– and the name of the image posted above, a framed card from a collection created by me.

This collection can be seen on my web-site. The title of the framed piece posted above, and of this blog, is a modification of the title of a short story, known as The Last Leaf, by O. Henry. O. Henry! The author whose story title influenced me and who has subsequently been called “America’s answer to Guy de Maupassant.” (For pleasure read Guy de Maupassant’s The Necklace – you’ll see why O. Henry was influenced by him and maybe why I in turn was influenced by O. Henry.) Both of these authors were “known for their twist endings,” and in his story, The Last Leaf, O.Henry tells us that Johanna (Johnnsy, the protagonist) has renewed energy upon seeing a lone ivy leaf clinging to its stem against a wall. If you’ve read this story, you are aware that unbeknown to Johnsy, what she is actually seeing is a wall on which a single ivy leaf has been painted by her disgruntled super, who knows that when Johnsy sees the leaf, she will find the strength to carry on with her life. Coincidentally, on the wall of my roof–top extension garden, someone (prior to my moving in) has painted many leaves of ivy (which you can see in the first photo in the panel in the the right side of this blog – the photo associated with my “on-line brochure”). This “ivy” is above and to the extreme right of the door in that photo.



A number of years ago, this “ivy” was bought to my attention by a neighbor, who happens to be named Johanna. She came to visit me when she learned my ceiling had collapsed into my top floor studio apartment where the main living space measures fifteen feet and four inches by ten feet.
Several things were destroyed in my apartment, and the dust from the fallen plaster made it nearly impossible to stay inside. I was distraught when Johanna and I were speaking. Since living here, I’d undergone four surgical procedures, suffered the loss of a parent when my father died a horrific death, and had my hours cut at my job, leaving me without enough funds to meet my needs. Prior to living here, I had experienced years of living in apartments that were barely habitable, including a small, top–floor studio apartment that had no window (except for a small sky-light that could only open a crack) and where the toilet was in my clothes clothes closet as seen in the photo posted below:



Now, standing in my current studio apartment with Johanna, in the aftermath of the ceiling collapse, and seeing the ceiling on the floor, with shard and plaster strewn all throughout the apartment, was overwhelming. In the midst of my angst, I noticed that one of the only objects which was totally unscathed by the ceiling collapse was a Bell Atlantic Caller ID Box; sitting on top of a stool.

I couldn’t help but think that the “surviving” Caller ID Box was a copywriter’s dream! What a great ad that would’ve made for the durability of those Caller ID boxes (and the need for them when catastrophe strikes). The fact that I was able to find humor in this situation should have been an indication to me that I would get through this, but at that moment all I could see was the struggle ahead to recoup the losses of my property, and to recover from the physical problems aggravated by this. Because of the difficulty we had breathing in my apartment, my neighbor Johanna and I went outside to my terrace (where I had yet to plant any type of garden) to talk about solutions. With no funds for repairs to my property (and no renter’s insurance), I shared my feelings of despair with Johanna. At that point, she showed me the painted ivy trailing up my building’s wall and told me the O. Henry story. Soon after, I was able to sell my mahogany cabinet that had been only slightly damaged.




I had inherited this piece of mahogany furniture from my great uncle, Dave Loth, a journalist for The New York World. This had been his first piece of furniture in his first New York apartment, and it was now going to be used for funds to repair some of my property. The aggravation of repairs ensued for months. At times, instead of being inspired by The Last Leaf, I felt that my situation was more akin to being the last straw, and worse yet, that I was the last leaf, barely clinging to a vine. Years have passed since that accident, but the painted ivy still remains, as does my inspiration to cling to the vine of life (not to be a clinging vine) when everything seems to crumble around it – an inborn reaction, I suppose to having the surname Youngquist (which translates into the ability “to survive under any condition”). —  P.S. I now have a beautiful garden which will be a focus of my blog; hence The Last Leaf Gardener for the title.

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