leaves still make food. Why?
For next year.
– above post (on phone) or beside it (on desktop). –
leaves still make food. Why?
For next year.
Sailing on fall wind,
a flock of droplets migrates.
Each is a small world.
Morning Sun on Winter Wreath
Bird, bow, and berries
scatter rays of hope to me.
Today may be good.
After the winter,
green plants spring back to savor
warmth and longer days.
I knew Everett from his being the part-time mail carrier who sometimes drove my home’s rural route. He was also a subsistence farmer who had veggie plots, chickens, and some goats who wandered at will despite attempts to corral them. While the Houdini goats were cause for resigned amusement, the predicament of a cow and her calf was cause for anxiety.
Mama was a small cow whose tryst with a large bull had produced a calf too large for her birth canal. Mama was lying on her side, with just the calf’s nose and front hooves protruding. Neither Everett nor I knew how to contact and compensate a veterinary surgeon who might perform a bovine C-section on short notice, but Everett had a plan.
He had tied the middle of a rope around the hooves. He would pull one end of the rope while another guy pulled the other end in the same direction, straight out from Mama. I would be the other guy. There was no mention of the possibility of pulling with a tractor, and Everett probably did not have a tractor anyway.
Was it thin rope or thick twine? Either way, it was old and frayed. (Before we started pulling, it was not quite so badly frayed as in the image above.) As we pulled, I feared that either the rope would break or some boots would lose traction. Either way, one or both of us would suffer an ignominious pratfall in the barnyard’s morass of mud and manure.
The rope held. So did our boots. Mama endured the ordeal with quiet stoicism, as her calf emerged slowly. Both survived.
My one and only obstetric accomplishment was decades ago, long before the 2016 election saw the USA’s ignominious pratfall into what passes for conservatism nowadays: a morass of mud and manure, with quicksand too.
Along with many others now, I am once again pulling on a frayed rope. Constitutional democracy has been badly frayed by dark money, gerrymandering, troll farms, and vote suppression. Will it hold long enough to extract my country from the morass? (We need two unlikely wins in Georgia on 2021-01-05 to flip the Senate.) When the future looks bleak, I think back to Everett’s frayed rope. We pulled; it held.
Bright white and strong pink:
early snow on burning bush
predicts apple blooms.
The prophet month has come and gone:
July foretold the fall.
Then August did its autumn tease:
sly hints and that was all.
September barked “Start raking leaves!”
I did not hesitate.
October, just around the bend,
was when such chores must wait.
While we do it mostly by adding the suffix [-ing] (and maybe tweaking the spelling), we sometimes add [-ent] (or [-ant]) instead. There is a subtle but important difference when we turn [emerge] into an adjective. Leaves emerge and then go about the business of growing and photosynthesizing. It would be a little better to say that my photo shows “emerging leaves” because there is no “and then” for emergent things. They just are emergent. What they emerge from is still there.
For example, look again at my photo, not as leaves but as an image. It emerges from about 700,000 pixels encoded with about 480 KB of data in JPEG format. That matters if I want to e-mail it to somebody who pays for data flow over a slow connection. For many other purposes, to fret about the underlying pixels and bytes is a waste of effort. The shapes and colors and composition are not in the pixels themselves. They emerge from the way the pixels are arranged and interact with each other and the viewer.
My mild misuse of the [-ent] suffix for emerging leaves is a point of departure for considering bigger issues, not just a bow to the exact wording of Patrick Jennings’ challenge:
Once we start looking for emergent things, we find that the world teems with them. (Water, ice, and steam all emerge from crowds of the same kind of molecule.) We find that fretting about “ultimate reality” may well be as pointless as trying to understand my photo by always diving down into those 480 KB and never looking at the emergent image. While some contexts demand a deep dive, others demand a shallow one.
One of many places with examples and discussion of various emergent phenomena is Sean Carroll’s book The Big Picture, which somehow manages to be a good read (and a mostly easy one) despite dealing with deep stuff in science and philosophy while being fair to other viewpoints.
While nothing in science is nailed down as tightly as 3+2 = 5 in math, there is much evidence that we are in a tiny corner of a vast universe that goes its own way with no overall design or purpose or supernatural intervention. Can we live fully and righteously in a cosmos that does not give a rat’s ass about beauty or goodness? In much more detail than I can hope to put into a blog post, Carroll argues that we can. Emergence is part of the story.
Tho a little queasy about Carroll’s use of the phrase [poetic naturalism] to name his upbeat attitude in the face of knowledge that would depress many people, I can’t think of a better name or a better attitude.
Don’t despair if love and justice seem as fanciful as unicorns when U consider only the underlying dance of atoms and molecules. Love and justice may be real enough, but emergent.
Yes, the bulbs survived and put out leaves. And flower stalks. Which bloomed.
Year after year, the discarded tulips bloom in spring, while I do nothing for them. Maybe they are old Yankees like me: compulsively self-reliant.