Monday, July 28, 2008

Fairy work

Yesterday I pulled the yellow flowers off the few dandelions in our grassy garden before they went to seed. Today, a few more yellow flowers. I'm always astonished that a dandelion can make a flower overnight.

Make a flower out of atoms of mostly carbon, oxygen and hydrogen, resources drawn from the soil and air. Overnight, while we slept, the plant was moving around and arranging all those atoms -- something like 100000000000000000000000 atoms, by my rough calculation, as many atoms as there are tablespoons of water in all the world's oceans -- ray florets, bracts. A pigment -- a carotene? -- for that golden color. All those boxy chlorophyl molecules with a magnesium heart and a long tail (where do they find the magnesium? oh, well, the entire country is green). Finding, shifting, arranging, under the direction of dandelion DNA. And in the morning -- presto! -- a flower head ready to open in the sun.

I've mentioned before that we live on "The Fairies' Road" here in the west of Ireland. There was a time, not so long ago, when country folks believed that the little people who lived under the hill were busy at night, stealing tools from the garden, milk from the cow, babies from the cradle. No fairies are more nocturnally industrious than the never-ceasing busyness of life itself, cleverly arranging 100000000000000000000000 atoms into a golden flower -- that I will pull off in the afternoon and toss away.