The seeds are as tiny as poppy seeds, even tinier, like specks of dust, packaged in a homely, large-economy-size type box. I would say it is roughly the size of a box of Cow Brand Baking Soda.
It’s called “Wildflower Mix” and it’s an impulse purchase from my local Dollarama, the twenty-first century equivalent of Woolworth’s, the original five-and-ten-cent store (whose success ultimately gave us poor little rich heiress Barbara Hutton.
(Barbara Hutton was so weighed down with inherited Woolworth dosh she once bought an entire village in Morocco as a dinner party venue, gifting the guests with real diamonds as party favors; and another time bought, excuse me, married, on a dare, a man called Porfirio Rubirosa.
(Porfirio was as well endowed as Barbara, but not with wealth, which is why waiters in the restaurants and resorts frequented by the nineteen-forties jet set began calling the giant pepper mills they brandished at patrons’ tables “Rubirosa’s.”
(She seems to have realized from the start what an utterly shameless gigolo he was, and, having won the bet, divorced him fifty-eight days later, paying out a handsome settlement for his trouble.
(Barbara Hutton died with “only” ten thousand dollars in her once billion-dollar bank account. This is usually trotted out as proof of the emptiness of her life and that money can’t buy happiness.
(Says who? Jeff Bezos looked pretty damn chuffed as he stepped out of his personal rocket ship. I dunno. How about giving the rest of us some wealth so we can design a controlled experiment, on “happiness”?)
The box of seeds from Dollarama that’s the size of a box of Cow Brand Baking Soda contains, in my scientific estimate, about five trillion gazillion seeds. That’s a lot of zeros. You could cover the grounds at Blenheim Palace and still have oodles left over to gift the tenants and the groundskeeper and the stable hands and everyone in the Marlborough Ladies’ Guild Bakery Contest Selection Committee. All for about a dollar! This is the most bang for your buck, ever.
You just strew them on top of the soil and keep them moist. Soon you see the miracle of germination as these little specks of dust come to life, put out tiny adorable shoots and strain for the sun like little baby fledgling birds waiting for their feeding.
Then the real fun begins. As they get bigger, you read the Latin names on the side of the box, look them up in the Wikipedia (“the encyclopedia you write yourself!”) and match the pictures to what you see growing. “Oh, that’s calendula! And that one’s Chinese Forget-Me-Nots! And ….!”
I planted them in a giant urn someone boosted from outside a hotel and brought to me. I have such thoughtful friends. Then one day, up they came: the aforesaid calendula and Chinese forget-me-nots (I’m not sure what makes them Chinese, but they’re extremely delicate and pretty) and baby’s breath and what look like Black-eyed Susans.
Just this week two electric blue cornflowers popped out, as though they’d waited for season’s end so they could steal the show.
(My family, by which I mean my great-aunts, called them “Bachelor’s Buttons” and we also called wild carrot “Queen Anne’s Lace” and iris were always “Flags”. These must be either Scottish or southern Ontario traditional names. My great-aunts, by the way, were in their eighties when I first met them, as a small child, in the 1960’s. They had all been born in the 1880’s, which means I knew Victorian women. I’m filled with awe when I realize that.)
This planting of wildflowers would be a wonderful project to undertake with young children. You could do a graph to plot how long it takes for the seeds to germinate, do stop-motion photography, paint watercolors of them, write poems about them, transplant them, see if music makes them grow faster, press them in an old-fashioned scrapbook, dry them to make potpourri, determine which are edible then decorate a salad for a special flower lunch served with with chamomile tea to Teddy bears… you could look up the Latin names on the side of the box, learn about the binomial classification that was proposed and begun by Charles Linnaeus…
Be sure to do this early, before your children get sucked into the vortex of the digital world and are lost forever.
This can happen. You’ll have to catch them early, before the advertisers and the other kids at school, the iPhone kids, lure them in, otherwise they will be lost and you might never, ever get them back.
I know Young People — in their twenties — who will not put down their cellphones when watching a movie. When eating. When I need to speak with them. I once insisted, and the YP became angry, almost violent, as though I was confiscating their oxygen canister. The dopamine buzz they get from the PING of their device will pierce their veins, overriding their common sense, their social skills, and, ultimately, their humanity.
Some — not all of them, but some of them — will grow petulant, combative, unable to discern what is verifiable and what is false, what’s reasonable and what’s too much. They’ll be loners, not team players, because they’ll have poor socialization; they won’t have learned to cooperate, to give up something for the greater good.
They’ll react with rage when confronted with different points of view, because they will have spent their time having their own views reinforced, not challenged.
They will unlearn any language skills they’ve acquired and become morose, cynical hacks who can’t formulate a sentence, let alone string together one sentence after another logically to make a cogent argument. They won’t pick up a book, which is where they’d learn the general mechanics of language, and they won’t read fiction, which is where they’d learn how logical thought plus imagination creates reality.
And the loss of logical thought is ultimately what causes pessimism and inertia. Logic leads to optimism: no, absolutely not the sense that everything’s wonderful, but the sense that steps lead to steps, that the world carries on, regardless; that every problem has a solution, given the right knowledge; that the abstract can, will, become concrete; and that if it’s not your concrete, it will be someone else’s.
Logic does not require the stripping away of all emotion. This is crucial to understand. Logic is simply the ability to discern what must come next.
We start with emotion. Our amygdala, the “lizard brain,” gets priority from the switchboard, then our cerebral cortex — read, logic — kicks in. (This is the physiological basis for that advice telling you to “count to ten” before reacting.)
Starting from strong emotion is OK, as long as the emotion is big enough, meaning it’s about something other than defending your bruised ego. Because you probably won’t find the impetus to fight poverty or injustice — you probably won’t even attend the protest march — until you boil over with righteous anger. But then you need the clarity of mind that follows the righteous anger, so that you know that next step.
The wildflowers are low-maintenance. All they need is soil and water and sun (some people refer to soil as “dirt.” If you say that, I will pretend I don’t know you when we get to the checkout. Sorry.). Strew the seeds on the ground, water them, nurture them, tend them, and they flower, because they have to.
The wildflowers spill over the sides of the urn, giving the impression of charming disorder, but only because we’re not at the right level to see the order.
If only we could see levels of emergence that god can see — states of time where mountains explode out of the ground, bloom, then fade, where glaciers flow like white-water rapids, and worlds scoop their arcs…
Levels of emergence: sometimes a microscopic view, other times a view that’s just big enough to encompass your whole community. But once you see those levels of emergence you have to do annoying things, like care for the environment and other people, and we’d rather just sit around eating stale toast and complaining about our cell phones, miniature computers in our hands that are more powerful than the computers used to launch the first moon landing.
And I realize with horror that I am part of the worst generation, boomers— the most entitled, arrogant, sloppy, careless, pretentious, promiscuous, self-centered, ungrateful generation to have ever walked this earthly paradise.