Follow by Email

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Poor Charles Darwin

     Soon as I started wresting out roots and weeds from my new peanut patch, what should pop into my head but the lyrics, “I was out choppin’ cotton, and my brother was bailin’ hay-ay-ay.” Over and over, that one line from—anybody remember?—“Ode to Billy Joe.” All about “the day Billy Joe McAllister jumped off the Tallahatchie Bridge.” Mm hmm, a real classic. Digging just a few yards from my air-conditioned suburban 4/2, I was hardly a redneck farm girl, but I felt a teeny-tiny bit of kinship. I was wearing a straw hat, anyway, and the band was sweaty.
     The first peanut patch is looking quite vibrant and productive, with a splash of astonishing beauty, ‘cause that’s how God rolls. The plants seem sturdy and businesslike, like Tolkienish dwarves, especially compared to the lacy tomatoes behind them. They are short and strong and do their main work underground. They also craft gorgeous, complex golden flowers, yellow with slender veins of orange, about half an inch wide. Like other tiny flowers I’ve discovered in my garden, they are shaped like orchids.
     Discovery, discovery, discovery, that’s gardening. I suppose farmers and other more experienced plant growers might pat me on the head and smile tolerantly, but I keep finding things to wonder at. Like those orchid-shaped flowers that you need a magnifying glass to discern. Or an odd little weed that belonged in an antique botanical sketchbook, bearing as it did tiny sprigs of round seed casings, articulated like pumpkins. The sprigs emerged from a slit in a flat green envelope that simply wasn’t roomy enough to produce them!
    I feel like Dr. Maturin in the Patrick O’Brian seafaring novels (Master and Commander, et al.) when I find one of these wonders. Just look how the baby figs pop out directly from the stems. How new pineapple plants show up in the wreckage of frozen parents. How the passionfruit vine, with its most splendid of purple, yellow and white flowers, climbs into the oak tree and drops fruit from the sky.
     “Poor Charles Darwin,” I think. He looked at such things, along with the lizards and snakes and squirrels and hawks and buzzards and ibises and mallards (all of which have turned up in our neighborhood if not our yard) and tried his best to explain them away. He couldn’t give God credit, so he made up a system of time and accident to explain eyes and ears, flowers and seeds, and color-changing lizards. I can’t not give God credit. The closer I look, the more marvelous the creation seems, and the more it seems He is standing right there saying, “Yes, I made this too.” The peanut is no accident. And neither am I. 
Peanut blossom, half inch wide in real life.

Impossible burst of pods
Passionfruit vine blooms twice a year

No comments:

Post a Comment