Well, here I am in cold, rainy Indiana. I hardly know what to say, but I’m sure that feeling will pass as my fingers warm from the exertion of typing. It’s taking me much longer than usual to get over my jet lag. I’m up until two or three in the morning and then I sleep until nine or so, four or more hours beyond my normal wake-up. It’s five in the afternoon now and I can hardly hold my eyes open. The body is such a creature of habit, eh?
Now, just as I have you fascinated by my struggle with jet lag, I’ll abruptly switch to another equally enthralling subject – Weeds.
When I went out into Steve and Marta’s lovely suburban yard yesterday and marveled that it was 18:30 and still full daylight, I struggled with my cantankerous mind for a subject with which I might distract myself for an hour or two. I observed the redbuds budding, the flowering plums flowering and the flame maples afire with smoldering seeds. Ah, yes, very nice. Yet some glimmer of shy colour drew me to the back of the lot where a drainage ditch lurks for the clumsy-footed. Yes, here in the neglected corner thrives my favourite weed, the lowly dandelion:
As I fiddled and fretted to compose the ultimate image to express the soul of the dandelion my fevered brain steered recklessly along twisty roads searching for a metaphor like an empty-pack smoker driving around looking for an open shop which still sells cancer-sticks. Suddenly, with a crash of thunder and a flash which temporarily blinded me, the analogy appeared to me. I am a weed.
This goes a long way toward explaining my affinity for dandelions. Dandelions are terribly clever in the arts of survival. I think that’s why they thrive where other weeds perish for lack of the social skills necessary to successful flora. Dandelions are not too awfully ugly. In fact, they exhibit certain charms. The flower is cheery by weed standards. Who can deny the handsomeness of a full, healthy dandelion blossom? The dandelion lies low. It is not erect and proud as the bolder, but more imperiled weeds. When it is not in bloom only the more critical lawn owners take much notice of it, especially as long as the dandelion does not stray into the front yard. Stay in your place, dandelion. The dandelion has a fabled past and appeals to our sense of humour. It is the clown of weeds. It dresses in bright raiment in the early spring. As the season wears on it adopts a comical fluffy head which amuses children and less inhibited adults by coming utterly unglued with the slightest puff from smiling lips. The bright blossoms, harvested in the spring, make an amusing wine with little effort. In the fall, it hides away quietly, leaving hardly a trace.
Yes, I am a weed. A special weed. A weed which is learning the tricks. I’m a dandelion. Trample me, if you must. Spray me. Go ahead, try to yank me up; I’ll come back bigger and more tenacious. I’m a tough customer and you’ll not soon be rid of me. But, if you can cut me some slack and give me a little room in the back corner of the lot, I’ll put on a pretty show for a while and do my best to amuse you.
Daffodils, on the other hand, have no weedy characteristics. They beg for nurture. A hard frost will be fatal. They need their space and it had better be in a good neighborhood or they will sulk:
This is a rather strange daffodil which I have not seen before. Frankly, I don’t think it’s as pretty as the ones with the little trumpet in the middle. I think it’s called a Double Golden Ducat, but I’m not sure.
This is the only time of the year that anybody notices a Redbud tree (Cercis canadensis):
This is their fifteen minutes of fame.
Up close, the redbud blossoms are rather pretty, if minuscule:
It takes a lot of them to make an impression. Think of them as poor people. You hardly notice one or two. It usually takes crowds of them to attract any attention at all.
The deep shades of magenta painting the blossoms of the Flowering Plum tree stand out against the new green leaves which shall soon become darker than the flowers:
It was getting darker as I took these shots. The light was very flat under the cold, threatening sky. I had to boost the ISO on my G11 to 400 to get a decent shutter speed.
The tiny helicopter seeds of the maple tree share the same tint as the plum:
Okay, I think I have plants out of my head for a little while. However, my wrist now itches.
Whenever I come to North America, I have to buy a new watch. Believe me, I’d rather live on Tropic Time for which something as superfluous as a timepiece is not required. In Madang things happen when they need to happen, not a moment sooner (though sometimes hours later):
I have a bag full of old watches at home, the batteries of which have all turned turned to sickly green mush with little scraps of silvery stuff sticking out at odd angles. Never mind. I have not paid more than $6.99 for a watch for decades. I broke my record this time at Wal*Mart (Yes, I know – don’t say it). I had to pay $7.50 for this stunning “Sport Watch”. When I say “I had to pay” that’s misleading. In actuality, I was chauffeured to Wal*Mart by friends Ed and Becky who cared for my worldly needs in Honolulu. They bought me some food and a watch. Hey, I’m not proud. I could have done without the “Sport Watch” label which makes me feel slightly more ridiculous than usual. Oh, well. One can’t expect perfection for seven and a half bucks, eh?
I have one last item of intense interest to the traveling public. It doesn’t fit anywhere else, so I’ll throw it in here. I rode from Phoenix to Indianapolis via US Airways on an airplane which was quite obviously falling apart as we watched. I was suspicious from the beginning when I noted that the armrests had ashtrays built in. It’s been a long time since I saw that. There were bits and pieces of ceiling trim falling down. My fellow passenger’s seat would not stay in the reclined position, so, being an old-fashioned gentleman, I traded seats with her so that she could better sleep. As I began to fill the time with skeptical examination of our winged chariot I was more and more alarmed:
Hey, there’s a screw loose right in front of my eyes! I took a picture, of course. Many of these little caps were missing entirely. In fact, great sections of the side trim of the seats which cover the mechanism and prevent snagged clothing were absent without leave. In the toilet the rim of the contraption had chunks missing, as if attacked by a madman with something more sturdy than those dinky little plastic knives they give you which refuse to cut butter. The holes had been filled in by some substance resembling Silly Putty.
As the line in California Dreamin’ goes, “I began to pray.” This kind of blatant, in-your-face neglect does not inspire confidence. I kept thinking, “If they let me see this, what horrors are they hiding from me? What do the engines look like, for pity’s sake?”
Anyway, here I am, despite US Airways best efforts to kill me. I say, “Neeeaaaahhh – missed me. GO ON, TAKE YOUR BEST SHOT. You can’t hurt a man with nothing to lose!”
As a parting blessing for you, I give you a man who is much worse off than I. Tom Dickson is a fellow who has somehow been coerced into taking seriously one of the most insanely trivial, culturally degraded and irresponsibly numbskulled jobs on the planet. Somebody pays this guy to show us what happens when we try to blend things which ought not to be blended. He begins the insufferably wacky demonstration with the words, “For years people have been asking us to blend Silly Putty.” Yes, I am sure that for a great many of us this question has robbed us of sleep and done irreparable damages to our psyches for decades – “What would happen if I tried to blend a big blob of Silly Putty?” I know that I have suffered greatly while longing for an answer. If you want to be enlightened, watch this.
Good night and good luck in your future life.