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We’ll get to Keats’s “Ode to Autumn” a little later in October. For now, with permission, we chose a brief verse from Cheap Poems, a mini book published by Spring Harbor Press. It sums up our feelings just fine and it’s called “Rainy Days.”
Yesterday it rained some more
Just as it did the day before,
And now it’s rained all day today
And kept the kids indoors to play
And made them cross, and this has led
To tears and spankings and to bed.
Oh, it will bring us all great sorrow
If it rains again tomorrow.
As we said, it’s not Keats. And we do like the Romantics. But if you have little kids and have a week of rainy weather, this may be more meaningful than anything written by a childless Romantic poet.
We just thought it would be good to take a break and enjoy a bright blue sky with some fair-weather clouds.
Summer is going to end too soon, so we suggest you take up a salt shaker, go into your vegetable patch and pick a tomato — one of those ripe red tomatoes that have soaked up the sun and internalized its heat and color. The garden is looking bedraggled by now, because you’ve stopped pulling weeds and the tomato plants themselves are sprawling over each other. The air is sultry with the tangy odor captured under the tomato leaves. Now bite into the tomato and, while you’re enjoying its warmth and juiciness, sprinkle a tiny bit of salt where you took that bite and take another bite. You can finish the tomato that way — just the very slightest amount of salt for each bite. You’ll be a mess, of course, your hands and chin soaked and dripping with tomato juice, but you’ll have eaten a real tomato such as no one who lives in a fancy apartment in the city will ever know. Let them eat their hearts out! You know how to live.
You’re right. That’s only some freshly washed bed sheets that had dried in the sun and just now have been taken down from the clothes line and dropped into a laundry basket. There’s nothing quite so white as freshly washed bed sheets hung out to dry in blindingly bright sunshine. And, silly us, when we looked at the basket we thought it resembled a basket filled from one of those big white cumulus clouds that build up in the sky in August. OK, it’s just laundry. We admit it. And it doesn’t really look like a cumulus cloud. We admit that, too. We like it anyway. And it does look like clouds to us. Sort of.
Raymond Kurzweil is planning to live forever. Kurzweil is a futurist, a person who predicts the future based upon current trends. He’s a brilliant inventor and he knows far more than most people about trends in science and technology. And based on what he knows he says that in two or three decades we’ll be at a point where we’ll be able to live forever. Wow! Eternal life! And in just ten or twenty years from now!
No one laughs at Kurzweil. (Well, maybe a few people at Critical Pages do.) The man has an astonishing record — as a student at MIT he founded a company and before he graduated he sold the company for $100,000 plus royalties. Six years later he started a company to develop a computer program that could recognize printed text; later he and others developed a system that could read text aloud. Kurzweil is also the man who pushed the music synthesizer forward to the point where it could produce musical sounds indistinguishable from those produced by musical instruments. He’s received the half-million dollar MIT-Lemelson Prize for inventive genius.
Currently, Ray Kurzweil is taking good care of himself, aiming to get through the next two or three decades to the year when science will have brought humankind eternal life. He keeps fit, exercises and eats well and, according to an article in Wired, he takes “250 supplements, eight to 10 glasses of alkaline water and 10 cups of green tea” every day and drinks several glasses of red wine a week. He figures that should do it.
Raymond Kurzweil is brilliant and helpful and and nobody will say I told you so when he dies. You don’t have to know what he knows to know he’s not going to live forever. His hope for immortality assumes that in the next twenty or thirty years we’ll acquire complete and perfect knowledge of human biology and the technology to apply what we know. Maybe we’ll have the ability to apply what we know. But thus far in history we’ve never acquired complete and perfect knowledge about anything.
This unusual flower is called Foxglove. It’s also known as Purple Foxglove, or Lady’s Glove, and in Latin it’s named digitalis purpurea. The Latin and English names are related, more or less, by meaning, but they’re not translations of one to the other. The Latin digitalis purpurea means purple ring.
A ring and a glove, of course, fit smoothly over a finger, and you can see how each elongated bell-shaped blossom can fit neatly over a finger. In fact, kids when left to themselves are liable to poke a finger into those blossoms — until you rush up, shouting, “Those are poisonous! Don’t touch them!” Because, as a matter of fact, the entire plant from root to top is lethally poisonous.
The Latin digitalis is formed from the word digitus, which means finger, and even if you don’t know Latin you can probably see that it contains our word digit, which means finger or toe, and because we count on our fingers, the word digit also refers to any of the numerals from 1 to 9, and a long time ago we decided to include 0 in that group, too.
Wake up, we’re not through yet! About 235 years ago, William Withering, a British doctor, noticed that people with dropsy, which was the name given at that time to the swelling seen in people afflicted with congestive heart failure — people with dropsy got better when given a certain herbal remedy. Withering discovered that the active ingredient in the herbal mix (it contained over 20 different herbs) came from Foxglove. The herbalists who compounded that concoction must have been skilled, because a bit too much of the Foxglove would have killed the patient.
William Withering was not only physician, but also a botanist, chemist and geologist. A brilliant man, he married a young woman who was a botanical illustrator, and they had three children. Withering died in 1799, age 58, and though he contributed to many branches of science he’s now remembered chiefly for his recognition of digitalis as a remedy for certain cardiac conditions.
We haven’t mentioned the different explanations of why the plant is called Foxglove. It’s too confusing. Besides, you may feel we’ve already gone on too long about that tall plant with the purple bell-shaped blossoms.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with your messy flower garden. If Mother Nature had intended neat flower gardens she would have distributed seeds in rows. Mother Nature doesn’t do that. The kings of France did that in the 18th century and you know what happened to them. Keep your head. Let your garden grow any which way. Enjoy it.
The peony, a very old emblem of China, has a role in European mythology as well, for the ancient Greeks named the flower after Paeon, one of Asclepius’s students. Asclepius, the god of medicine, grew jealous of his pupil and would have killed him, had not Zeus saved him by turning him into the peony flower — a curious kind of salvation. But the record is confused. Paeon appears as a great healer in the Iliad and Hesiod counts him among the gods. Fortunately, we have the flower itself. Peonies are gorgeous, the large blossoms suggest abundance and their scent is as lush as the blossom. That’s enough.
You’re right. No one’s been posting. We’re busy and lazy. We admit it. But the warm rain has been at work and we have a fine crop of Siberian iris. We’re crazy about them. We admit that, too. OK. You can move on to your more important stuff on other web sites. This is all we have today.
The flowers above are called scilla. They come in a variety of colors and they’re one of the early signs of spring, dotting the untended suburban lawns. And if you have a few one year, you’ll have lots more the next year, and so on year after year. If you hire a lawn service every April, or if you simply use a good broad spectrum weed killer, you’ll be rid of this invasive weed. That’s why we never hire a lawn service or use weed killer.