April 23, 2024
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The Garden or the Growth of Things Unseen

Many a fervent rabbi or other clergyman preaches today about and against the awesome power of the internet, the oracle of our times. As the following tale reveals, there is a lot more to be afraid of than even they imagine!

Almost two years ago, Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt, president of the Conference of European Rabbis, wrote a timely blog in the Huffington Post (2/2/17; updated 3/2/18), in which he pointed out many of the challenges posed by the growing strength of the internet and its powerful influence on all aspects of our lives. In “The Power of the Internet,” he wrote, among other things:

When media changes, the world changes. We live in a world where the Pope and the President are on Twitter and Rabbis communicate on Facebook… Technology is changing our lives and that of future generations; reshaping the economic, social, ecological, religious and cultural contexts in which we live. Without doubt, today, in one day, more information is going through the internet than all the information collected in over one hundred years of printed books…However, it is all not always for the better…

I am sure scholars such as Rabbi Goldschmidt agree that discernment and care should be exercised in using the internet, because ultimately the consequences of blindly trusting the information found there may be impossible to evaluate in advance. Witness below the example of Jake and Belle Rabinowitz, longtime local residents who sought guidance one day from what turned out to be a very dubious internet source they thought quite innocent, but which turned out to be of a decidedly malign nature.

Jake Rabinowitz and his wife, Belle, had just completed major renovations on their house in Teaneck when the question arose in early March as to the landscaping that was needed to complete the changes.

“I’m leaving the outside to you, Jake,” his wife said. “I’ll be responsible for what goes on indoors, the rest is up to you.”

“I think a small English-type garden would be perfect,” he replied.

“Just make sure I like it!” Belle replied.

After consulting with his Russian contractor, Jake made an appointment with a Polish landscaping subcontractor, Jerzy, who soon came up with some plans that closely matched what Jake had in mind. In a matter of weeks, a dozen trees of different sorts, several bushes and a number of perennials were planted in the back and front yards and along the sides of the house. By May of that year, the Rabinowitzes had a garden they could be proud of, capped by a white trellised arch that allowed a second entry to the back yard from the southwestern corner of the house.

And so everything remained for two years, during which time the garden underwent its expected seasonal changes, going from tender growth in the spring, maturation in the summer, fulfillment in autumn, with hints of decay and inevitable death and barrenness in winter, the cycle repeating itself again in the new year.

As the second winter waned, Jake felt that something was missing in the garden; he wanted to add color and variety to the original plantings. In time he chanced upon an advertisement on the internet for a flower-gardening website for the White Flower farm near Columbia, Connecticut, about 60 miles from Teaneck. Without reading the fine print too carefully he ordered almost $800 worth of plants from White River, 12 varieties, a total of 40 plants all together, for delivery in the next few weeks. With the help of Raphael, his Mexican-American gardener, Jake oversaw the planting of the new species. In the coming weeks, Jake, Belle and Raphael awaited the “new arrivals” with eagerness.

They soon saw the first signs of life in mid-March as green sprouts emerged from the thawed soil. Within two weeks, the garden was in full growth mode and another two weeks brought, the first radiant blossoms of the year. By May, the garden saw a profusion of colors ranging from deep magentas to purples, reds and yellows, with an equal variety of bell-shaped and conical flowers. The plants that emerged were not particularly tall and, except for the peonies, did not require staking.

Jake was quite satisfied with the flowers he had added that year to the garden as were his neighbors who on all sides began to take notice of the colors that were emerging before their eyes. They even sought to take cuttings from the new plants, which Jake promised them later in the season. Jake did notice that with the introduction of the new species came the final disappearance of the beds of tulips he had so proudly maintained in previous years as one by one they failed to germinate where they had once flourished.

The second year after the introduction of the White Flower plants brought some rather peculiar developments in the garden. Three species in particular began to show unusual growth characteristics.

The Delphinium elatum “Faust” imported from famed horticulturists Blackmore and Langdom based in Somerset, England; the Anchusa azurea “Dropmore”; and the Asclepias tuberosa were growing rapidly and widely, beyond anything Jake had expected. By the third week in March each plant was approaching four feet in height, blocking out all surrounding plants and bushes. By chance Jake had planted these three varieties on a fairly wide section of the garden near the front entrance of his home, and soon they provided a broad screen through which Jake could not see the adjoining street, nor could his neighbors see his front door.

“You must do something about these plants, Jake, before they choke off the rest of our garden or worse!” implored Belle.

“I’ll see what I can do,” Jake responded. And try he did, but neither his gardener nor the voice at the end of the line at White Flower Farms could provide an explanation or suggestion to remedy this excessive growth. Finally, at his wit’s end, Jake decided to do a little research online about the three offending flower species. What he discovered was alarming. Starting with an article concerning the English horticulturists Blackmore and Langdon, Jake discovered that this company had originated with centuries-old ancestors directly associated with the ancient Druids of Britain. With a base in Bath, England, it was rumored the Blackmore and Langdon families had familiarity with black arts, magic rituals and the like. It struck Jake as odd that the variety of Delphinium elatum that was then growing in his front garden was nicknamed “Faust” by those English florists, as that in itself conjured up images of the devil or Satan. Further research into the practices of the ancient druids brought some rather disturbing revelations. Apparently the ancestors of Blackmore and Langdon had attempted to contact demons from the underworld with some degree of success. They had been persecuted in England in medieval times for such deeds. Among their practices, they would plant designated trees, bushes and flowers to consecrate to those creatures in an effort to raise them from the netherworld. Finally, Jake came across an ancient source online that claimed to describe a Druid practice known as “triangulation” whereby the planting of three specific flower species by the Druids in close proximity to each other would in the words of the ancient scribes “open a portal to the world below!”

Jake read on and, in a brief moment, stopped his reading abruptly:

“Belle, come here, immediately!”

She rushed in.

“What’s wrong?” she shouted.

“You won’t believe this…read this!

Belle read as instructed, but as she read, the words made no sense:

“Take ye the seeds of the Delphinium elatum and grow nearby the milky weed of the Asclepias tuberosa; add the blue petals of the Anchusa azurea. But be thou wary what you conjure up, for in the second year, visitors from the dark side may appear with dire consequences for all they confront…”

“Are they saying that, in other words, the flowers we have growing outside our front door, here in Teaneck, are somehow dangerous, somehow tied magically to demons and the like?”

“I’m not sure, Belle, exactly what it means, but I think we should watch these plants very carefully and take action if it becomes necessary!”

Joseph Rotenberg, a frequent contributor to The Jewish Link, has resided in Teaneck for over 45 years with his wife, Barbara. His first collection of short stories and essays, entitled “Timeless Travels: Tales of Mystery, Intrigue, Humor and Enchantment,” was published in 2018 by Gefen Books and is available online at Amazon.com. He is currently working on a follow-up volume of stories and essays.

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