Sunday, July 15, 2007

Strange Days Indeed

There's always something cooking and nothing in the pot.
They're starving back in China so finish what you got.
Nobody told me there'd be days like these
Strange days indeed. Most peculiar, Mama.
- John Lennon, Nobody Told Me

After Johan Wolfgang Goethe finished a book about his theory of the metamorphosis of plants, he said, "The happiest moments of my life were experienced during my study of the metamorphoses of plants, as the sequence of their growth gradually became clear to me.” Turns out, his unproven theory was crap, and contemporary botanists ignore it.

Which just shows to go that happiness and ignorance are not incompatible, and which further supports my own unproven theory that even if your understanding of nature is misguided and wrong, you can still derive satisfaction from messing around in a garden. I had some success with sunflowers this year, but I’ve got no theory to explain why so few germinate. Most peculiar, Mama.

Then, there’s the theory about the starving children in China that Lennon used to support his theory that we’re living in strange days.

Some years ago, I worked in a research institution where I met a Chinese postdoctoral fellow who was my age. We had obtained a 2-year visa for her to work in our institution, but she had to leave her husband and 2-year-old daughter behind as hostages to guarantee her return. As we became acquainted, we learned to our mutual surprise, that her parents had told her to clean her dinner plate because it was wrong to waste food when there were children starving in America.

Another theory bites the dust – unless you interpret her experience to support my suspicion that parents the world over employ fear and hyperbole shamelessly to keep their kids in line.

My potato vines are dying – just as they’re supposed to do when the potatoes are ready to harvest. I am reluctant to dig them up because I have a volunteer pumpkin that sprouted from the compost used to grow the potatoes. The pumpkin is white, and I’ll steam it, scoop out the meat, mix it with brie and breadcrumbs, some eggs and cream and bake it in the pumpkin shell into a yummy soufflé. There will be no need for threats to assure we’ll finish it.

So, today’s rather disjointed lesson is that I can enjoy my garden even though my composting skills are rough, and my knowledge of potato cultivation is rougher. And, as strange as it seems, Mama, when parents threaten their children to make them clean their plates, they’re just trying to warn kids that there will, indeed, be days like these.

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