Review: Ars Botanica

Ars BotanicaArs Botanica by Tim Taranto
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Ars Botanica
A Field Guide to Loss
By Tim Taranto

Reviewed by Jay Gilbertson

I’m still spellbound. This small book full of drawings and poems and a deep story, knocked me over. Author Taranto took two very painful experiences and wove them together into a way forward. This is the first time I can ever recall reading about the man’s side of things, the male viewpoint, the raw pain and sorrow and hope of choosing to end a pregnancy and then, sadly, a relationship. Think of this book as a toolbox.
Hope is what Taranto leaves you with, like a lone ray of sunshine through a dark hole. One thing to understand, to keep in mind as you embark on this journey of love and loss, this book isn’t about judgement. It’s one man’s innermost thoughts, a life-map, full of wisdom and kindness. This is how it began.
“Before I met her I was living. I was a composite of tastes and habits…And then your mother began leaving packages on my porch filled with food she’d prepared and slow dancing with me to Hank Williams…I was filled with a warm repose, how a houseplant must feel when moved to a sunny sill.”
Through letters to his never-to-be-born child he named Catalpa, this love story unfolds and shapes into something tangible and important and vibrant and alive. It moves through a summer.
“When she communicated her desire to terminate the pregnancy, I was with her, it was what I wanted too. When she communicated her desire to terminate the relationship, I pulled my hat over my eyes and sank into her sofa. Maybe like seeing the world on the morning after you died, I was part of a new reality I could not imagine belonging to; I was afraid to move.”
Author Taranto finds his way through his many layers of grief by sharing his life with Catalpa.
“I harvested catalpa flowers until I filled an entire paper grocery sack. To this day, I can’t think of many places I’d rather be than sitting across from her, eyes closed, head bowed, chest slowly rising as she breathes a bouquet of catalpas.”
Though this is a memoir, one person’s recollection of how things happened both to and with him, I have to wonder. Did he give up too easily on the relationship or was the reality of their mutual decision to end their pregnancy simply too much for them to bear? Though truly sad, it is important to realize that we all experience life in a myriad of ways and this story unveils a side rarely seen.
Earlier I had mentioned wisdom. Throughout the book there are sentences that shine with it.
“And to that I say that’s about the long and short of it. You’re not in love until you are, you don’t want to die until you feel like you already have, and you don’t know the Divine until you see its hand in all things.”
He ends with this, “That something lasts forever does not make it a thing of beauty, does not measure its worth. But just that it happened at all, even for a little while…”
Every day, we make choices and do our best to find ways to cope with the consequences. Perhaps if we joined forces and allowed a space of nonjudgement, our path forward would not be uphill.

• Perfect gift
• #1 for Book Clubs
• What is your hill?

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