Muhammad Ali was laid to rest in my hometown on June 10th.
Tens of thousands lined the city streets for a 19-mile motorcade processional that led from his childhood home on Grand Avenue to Louisville’s Cave Hill Cemetery.
20,000 filled the Yum Center for a memorial service that followed.
Louisville WDRB Sports Journalist Eric Crawford said, “We will never see the likes of this day, or Ali, again.”
Mitch McConnell, the Senate Majority Leader, didn’t show up. Abraham Lincoln and Muhammad Ali rank as our two most famous Kentuckians. It’s a pity that Senator McConnell a couldn’t make it home to Louisville, but it might have put him in an odd spot. McConnell is a cunning politician. He doesn’t strike me as joyful or playful. Muhammad Ali was joyful and playful to his core.
The Champ had planned his sendoff for nearly ten years. People of different colors, creeds and persuasions gathered to remember The Greatest of All Time. Ali knew what he was doing, but he wasn’t cunning.
This was a joyful day.
Ali often said, “Ain’t I pretty? You ain’t never seen a man prettier than me.”
He was pretty. But he was so much more. Pretty was a starting point.
My meadow is pretty, too. But I can’t look at my meadow without wondering if I’m doing the right thing. I worry too much. How long will it take for birds to start seed bombing the menacing Johnson grass Sorghum halepense into the meadow? This would not be so pretty.
I’ve read recently read that pretty may no longer be good enough for a garden or a meadow like mine. Each should sustain life and benefit the natural world. I think my 2-acre meadow does that, but I’m not ready to give up pretty.
My meadow will soon be full of beautiful colors and textures. The red blooms of the royal catchfly Silene regia and the gray-green foliage of rattlesnake master Eryngium yuccifolium never hog the spotlight. Cut-leaf prairie dock Silphium pinnatifidum will do that! Goldfinches feed on seeds of black-eyed Susan in late winter, and lightning bugs flicker on hot summer nights.
Not all is wholesome. Bush honeysuckles want to gobble up a piece of my goodness. Venus’ looking glass, Triodanis perfoliata, was a pretty newcomer to the meadow this month, and it could become a weedy thug, too. Maybe I shouldn’t trust pretty.
Irish landscape designer Mary Reynolds has gone beyond pretty. She seeks to find a deeper relationship with her garden designs. “I shouldn’t be making any more pretty gardens.”
This is where things get tricky and interesting.
It’s not easy to promote plants and gardening. Otherwise, we would be a nation of gardeners, instead of a nation of gun owners. The NRA is clearly more persuasive than the nursery industry.
Invoking fear sends guns flying off the shelves but doesn’t do much for nursery owners. Start talking too much about the natural world-butterflies and bees-and try telling folks to get over “pretty,” and you will hit a strong headwind. Homeowners get scared. If you’re trying to make a living from horticulture, the chance of selling gobs of plants may fly out the window.
On the other hand, there is Garden and Gun Magazine. Truth told: I own one .22 rifle and three garden hoes.
Homeowners want pretty.
We need a deeper understanding of the natural world and a global commitment to keep our planet healthy. We want gardeners with hoes in their hands, not assault weapons.
The world needs the inspiration of Muhammad Ali and Mary Reynolds.
Ali lived in the moment. He wasn’t anxious about tomorrow. He made a complicated world seem simple.
Gardening is not simple.
I needed The Champ’s advice.
I wish he could have seen my Salvisa meadow, where there are butterflies floating and stinging bees buzzing.
“Ain’t it pretty?” Ali might have said. I would have nodded in agreement. We were alike in some ways.
We loved life.
We loved people.
We loved pretty.