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Anyway, horticulture didn’t seem to require much math, and since that consideration far outweighed my complete ignorance of the subject, I signed up.
I'm still fairly ignorant of the subject. The class met at a horrific 7:20 AM, the professor was a genial bore, the textbook was all tables and graphs, and I can't say I retained much information (though I bet I know more about scions and sphagnum than you do). Still, that class was one of the happiest experiences I had in Madison. Certainly happier than getting clubbed during a demonstration or dodging the football players on my dorm floor when they'd get drunk and go berserk. Happier than some of the truly happy stuff, too, like getting ag-school ice cream at Babcock Hall, picking up 25-cent books at Paul's Bookstore, following the weird off-campus poetry community, or giving myself tours of the graduate-level art studios to see what people were doing. For one thing, horticulture class was where I met the best friend I made during my single year at UW. But perhaps more important from a practical point of view, it was where I got what I needed to survive the Wisconsin cold.
The university's botany department maintains an 8,000-square-foot greenhouse complex that shelters hundreds of plants. It's balmy and green, even tropical, all the time—never mind the blizzards howling outside. I don't know why all 50,000 students didn't just huddle together in there from December to April, but they didn't. The place was pretty much mine any time I wanted it. And I certainly did. I'd wander among the rows and rows of plants whether I had a class assignment or not, learning absolutely nothing useful about the squirrel-foot fern or the square-stalk cranesbill but feeling the great sweetness of their presence all the same. Shape. Color. Scent. Light. Humid being effervescing from the soil. It's weirdly appropriate for someone like me, I suppose—developing an appreciation for nature by spending time in a controlled environment.