Notes From My Knapsack 5-6-10
What Time It Is, All Nature Tells
Do you recall View-Master reels? Those 3-D picture discs you slid into a little fake binocular and pointed at a light source, and then pushed the lever on the side to watch the Everglades or Disneyland or astronauts go by in depth and dimension.
There was one of a set I no longer have (and I've got a bunch of them still) of a floral clock somewhere, with blossoms that opened in turn through the day, from dawn to dusk.
When my Scout troop was about to go visit Greenfield Village, I was kind of excited to learn that they had a floral clock at the entrance, but it was a letdown to find that theirs was just a mechanism for a large set of hands sweeping across flowers arranged as the numbers – it wasn't what I'd come to think of as a floral clock.
In truth, it's hard to have a clock garden that keeps good time on a daily basis, but you could have good luck with a calendar garden: by the month, anyhow.
We've had the crocuses and daffodils and hyacinth come, and now gone, about to be replaced by peonies and tulips aplenty in May, who will then take a back seat to day lilies and marigolds heading into Memorial Day and the turn to June.
Further up into the trees and shrubs, the forsythia are fading along with the flowering pear and cherry, magnolias came and went between the next to last snow and the last snow, but the redbud is lasting right through the spring to tie the earliest blossoms to the fullness now of dogwood. About the time those dogwood petals drop, further up in the canopy we'll see catalpa in full flower, followed by the very tip top skyward facing tulip poplar blooms, all orange and yellow with a hint of peach and pink.
Roses will get going seriously about the time greenhouse annuals take over the flower beds, throwing off this whole idea, but it's still true that nature has a clock all her own.
I was thinking even more about this as I read about our early settler families, and how special a treat was . . . bread made from wheat ground into flour. They considered the first loaves of their own grain milled into useable and storable form important, because it meant the first steps toward freedom from what was available.
We talk nostalgically and responsibly about the utility of eating what is in season and local, but in those pioneer records, it's clear that what this meant in practice, for them, was lots of bear meat most of the year, deer meat other times, and for variety, they made sandwiches. They were a slab of bear meat, put between two slabs of deer meat. I kid you not. No bread, remember?
When day lily buds were full, and squash blossoms flowered, you threw those in the frying pan and ate them 'til you were sick of them. Then you got sick of squash, until it was time to get sick of potatoes and onions. But there was always more bear meat.
In the modern produce department, time is frozen, sort of. This has costs and implications we need to think about, but we could start by remembering just how thankful we should be for sandwiches in May with good Ohio bacon, local farmstand tomatoes, and some California lettuce atop mayo from wherever they make it and pasteurize it.
Or you could wish for the natural days of a deer-bear-deer sandwich to get you through pushing a wooden plow across your acreage! No wonder they drank so much whiskey . . .
Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and supply preacher around central Ohio; tell him about your favorite sandwich, in season or out, at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow Knapsack @Twitter.