The Sweet Breathing of Plants
Linda Hogan & Brenda Peterson, eds.
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Get *The Sweet Breathing of Plants: Women Writing on the Green World* delivered to your door! The Sweet Breathing of Plants: Women Writing on the Green World
edited by Linda Hogan & Brenda Peterson
North Point Press
February 2002
304 pages
rated 5 of 5 possible stars

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Subtitled "Women Writing on the Green World", this collection of essays and poems celebrates the unique connection between women and plants throughout recorded history. As sources of food, medicine, and beauty itself, plants have occupied the attention of women much as politics and war have occupied the attention of men.

Curled Up With a Good BookThe fact that Earth is given the title "Mother" attests to this bond, lending it a legitimacy not always recognized by the male of the species. In "Fate of the Wise Women," Jean Achterberg describes the Middle Age conflict between men and women over the use of plants as medicine. European women who defied the authorities and practiced the art of healing with herbs were routinely persecuted as witches. During this same period, a continent away, the Aztecs were discovering the psychotropic effects of the peyotl cactus. In "Peyote," Native American Church member Mary Crow Dog tells how, until recently, women were denied full participation in religious ceremonies involving this plant.

Leaving controversy behind, Sharman Apt Russell explores our age-old fascination with perfume in "Smelling Like a Rose." In "The Language of Flowers," Isabel Allende goes one step farther by explaining the symbolism given plants during the Victorian age. At that time, subtle messages could be conveyed via the choice of flowers or the positioning of a bow in a bouquet. Presenting a more modern view of plants, Molly Peacock sees her garden as a "State of Grace," a sanctuary in which she can connect with her inner self. Trish Maharam mirrors this thought in "Plantswomen," a story of her own personal growth as a gardener.

In "Earth's Green Mantle," Rachel Carson delves into the relationship between plants and animals and the consequences of man's interference with nature. Sharon Bertsch McGrayne gives us a glimpse into the life of a plant geneticist in "Barbara McClintock," while Linda Jean Shepherd describes her love affair with a philodendron in "My Life with Weed."

Rounding out this unique book is a section called "The Forest for the Trees." In "Dreaming of Trees," Kathleen Norris reflects on the treeless plains of western North Dakota and the beauty of the few stands of greenery dotting that area. Laura Bowers Foreman recalls her years as a forestry student in "For the Maples." One of only a handful of women in her class, Foreman is now a member of Catkin Moon, a community of women dedicated to learning and teaching about the plant ecology of the northwest.

The above-mentioned selections comprise only a fraction of the essays and poems featured in The Sweet Breathing of Plants: Women Writing on the Green World. While the collection as a whole reflects the differing perspectives of the authors, what holds the work together is a commonality of belief in the beauty of the green world. Kudos to editors Linda Hogan and Brenda Peterson, who have produced a beautiful and thought-provoking book that should appeal to any gardener, but especially gardeners of the female persuasion.

© 2001 by Mary V. Welk for Curled Up With a Good Book

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