Thoughts . . . by Mark Rich

. . . scribbled . . . scrawled . . . trimmed . . . typewritten . . . grubbed up . . . squeezed from circumstance . . .

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Feeding at Dandelions

Today for perhaps an hour I pushed around our reel mower, which, for those not in the know, is a non-motorized affair -- an equivalent in yard care (vs. the various noisy and noisome affairs that destroy suburban and village peace, while consuming deep-drilled fuel) to the pencil, pen, and typewriter in writing (vs. the electric word processor which so many writers take skittering across a million electronic landscapes).

At some point while mowing, my eye lit upon a lone dandelion bloom, which had upon it a feeding Sulfur. A butterfly. Both dandelion and Sulfur fall within the category of Vagrant Organism, since both happen to flourish readily under the conditions Caucasian rule has imposed on this continent -- conditions which include disrupted and damaged soils, and a narrowed range of dominant plant types.

So my eye was caught by this sight which should be utterly commonplace -- "vulgar," perhaps, in an older usage -- of a vagrant insect feeding upon a vagrant forb's sunny blossom ...

When this thought intruded: "How beautiful."

Butterfly flew away. Lawnmower, pushed along by force of my legs and bare feet, beheaded weed.

Alas, poor Beauty! I knew her ... well, momentarily.

Various thoughts filled me. We have seen few or no dandelion blooms in our yard for a month or more -- until now, when a handful are appearing again, here and there. We missed dandelion season completely, in terms of wine making, even though both Martha and I made noises about wanting to make some again this year.

Reflecting on missing this window of opportunity made me think that the people who realize most clearly the fact that dandelion blooms are fleeting in their coming and going are the home winemakers -- the ones who prize them, and know how promptly they must seize their chance.

What an utter puzzle it is that our society prizes lawns and loathes flowers that might disturb that green expanse, when the flowers themselves last so short a time. What a puzzle it is, too, that our society lacks respect for something that attempts to disrupt our un-beauteous lives with beauty. The disrespect arises, perhaps, because the beauty being offered is so commonplace -- even if not so common as it should be ... at least along our village street, where deleterious and long-lived poisons have ruined matters for even our most commonplace butterflies: for on this July day one might walk past yard after yard before spotting any vegetative sustenance that a lowly Sulfur might need.

How strange it is, too, to feel a celebratory twinge at seeing a butterfly that commands little respect even from lepidopterists. Sulfurs survived in numbers through the post-WWII disaster of DDT application and have thus far survived the neonicotinoids and other synthetic world-wreckers that have been unleashed by our so-called "agricultural" industries; their larvae feed on common vagrant forbs, as well as on commercially planted ones; adults produce as many generations in a season as they can, with the thoughtless abandon so appropriate to the vagrant.

Yet I felt the celebratory twinge, because while I have been seeing a variety of "better" butterflies in our garden I have seen none of these unassuming creatures for quite some time.

The fact that the rich and powerful among North American humans want all aspects of life aligned with the interests of their infinitely expandable pocketbooks has made our continent an uncongenial place for the poor, the downtrodden, and a supposedly commonplace butterfly.

The rich and powerful, mind you, regard themselves as the Beautiful People.

This I might believe, did they feed at dandelions.

For some reason the further thought appeared in my mind on this July day that writers should be like weeds: tenacious; recurring despite discouragement and attack; blooming predictably yet also, if lucky, unpredictably at other times, in some years; and commonplace.

Commonplace? Naturally. And should not readers, too, be commonplace? And beautiful?

I dream of the years before DDT and Agent Orange and Roundup, before Monsanto and Dow Chemical and Scott, before chemical lawn services, before the monoculture farming of the entire inner North American craton, before the gas-powered grass-shearing abominations that await sunny afternoons in every garage ...

Of the years when one kind of winged beauty by countless millions filled the air by day, and another sort, by night -- all of them alert and attuned to their vast world, and all of them alighting to feed at the countless millions available to them, in every variety, of blooms.

Cheers ...