Maybe it’s not obvious that the title I’ve chosen for this blog refers to its content: wild Mediterranean flowers and music, mostly jazz. If it had been someone else’s title, I might not have got it.
But I did know that the phrase was a favourite image Charles Darwin called upon to describe the closely packed profusion of the natural world, both plant and animal. Have a look at the essay by Stephen Jay Gould titled ‘The wheel of fortune and the wedge of progress’, in his book Eight Little Piggies for an illuminating discussion of Darwin’s images and ways of thinking.
I explained some of my reasons for choosing this particular image in my very first post on this blog, which you can find here. In fact as Gould points out, Darwin chose to close the Origin of Species by returning to the image:
It is interesting to contemplate an entangled bank, clothed with many plants of many kinds, with birds singing on the bushes, with various insects flitting about, and with worms crawling through the damp earth, and to reflect that these elaborately constructed forms, so different from each other, and dependent on each other in so complex a manner, have all been produced by laws acting around us.
The tangle is not just the profusion, it also refers to the web of relationships between plants, animals, and their environment, and I hope to illustrate some of these in the blog.
But another meaning leads to the slant I find I often take when researching for a post: the tangle of connections people have made to each plant over history, often going back thousands of years and involving myths, symbols and healing uses, and which are often reflected in the various names given to plants. The music is just part of that tangle. So I’ve noticed that the blog is developing along a path which diverges from some other botany or naturalist blogs and websites, much as I like and admire them. That’s OK – like all newly evolved species, we’ve all got to find a niche in which we can grow.
A friend commented to me, ‘The banks are pretty entangled at the moment!’ I imagine economic crisis and austerity will be around for a while, and I hope we can disentangle ourselves from that sort of bank.