Small Flowers / Blinking Lights


I got to go spend some time in the woods this past week, just walking around for a few hours. It was pretty nice, I've always loved the woods. Right now the big difference is when you see someone else in the woods coming the opposite way down the path, it's even more embarassing. But that's still small change and the woods are still worth it.

My new thing to look out for on a woods walk is really tiny flowers, the smaller the better. They're not uncommon, once you start looking for them, and the shapes seem much different from bigger flowers, in a way that I find appealing. You zoom way in and the flowers don't seem small anymore, they're just nice flowers you never saw before, standing proud in the shadow of like a pitifully large small piece of branch, looking like a streetlamp to a bug. No one planted them there, they're just there. I don't even think you can plant them, I think you just have to hope they show up. Or be aware that they might show up, and keep an eye out for them.

I think of these small, sparse flowers as "Isao's flowers" because of Sakiko's great uncle Isao, who was the first person I met to really zoom in on these guys. We went out to lunch one time when I was visiting Tottori, and when we rolled up on him outside he was strolling along holding and gazing at a flower literally this big:


He brought it in to lunch and his family was like what is that, a lil flower? and he said yeah. And they were like if you like flowers you should go to this famous botanical garden, and he was like... ...why? I could be wrong but as I remember it the attitude was less "I hate the botanical garden" and more like "I'm focusing on the small, wild, and free right now, thank you". If I'm anywhere near an approximation of the sentiment, then yes, I appreciate the attitude, big time. Though I'm sure I would also enjoy the botanical garden.

The other time I got to hang out with Isao was after an afternoon concert or something, a few of us split off from the rest of the family and walked together past the museum, up the stairs to a temple on a hill, and right up to the edge of a big lake. There were big fish in the water with bright colors and big gaping barbershop-quartet mouths, and Isao had this crazy story about how when he was a kid they drained the lake to kill the fish, in the hopes of attracting fireflies, but it didn't work, the fish came back somehow and the fireflies never took. I was like why did they want fireflies and he was like "because they're cool", or maybe more like "regular reason". I said fair enough. It didn't seem like he had a horse in the race, vis à vis fish or flies, but I can see both sides of the issue. The fire flies are cool, no argument there. But from the fish perspective, a fish egg hops a pond by hitching a ride on a bird's butt? I really respect that. Also the fish are there all the time, fireflies are just an evening thing. Fireflies may inspire the poet, but that's amateur hour stuff. But that said every poet's gotta start somewhere, might as well give them an easy setting to reflect on and let them refine their approach later. No disrespect to any poet out there with fireflies in the back catalog-- everyone does it and not for no reason.


OK, let's be clear, if someone asked me today should we drain the pond in a firefly bid, I'd say get out of my office. But in the childhood days of someone else's great uncle, with lots of little great uncles and great aunts running around with big now faces on little 8 year old bodies, I might entertain the argument. Fireflies are extremely cool and everyone loves them. Even me, your fantasy temple grounds administrator. Damn, you know what, enough talk, I'm going to get the groundskeeper to put in a water feature outside the castle. Maybe we'll get some fireflies by later this week, before the invitable bird leg brings the inevitable fish. Should I ask the groundskeeper to paint the utility shed to match the rest of the castle while I'm at it? Ahhh I guess it's not that big of a deal, and besides the color's kind of growing on me.

I was watching one of my nature documentaries recently and there was an insane little nugget germane to the topic of glowing bugs, a fact I shall now relate. Well it's a two parter. The first part is that way under water in the deep deep sea you sort of instinctively feel like there's not going to be a lot down there, because its freezing cold and almost pitch black. Or I don't know how you feel but I feel that way. But actually there's a ton of stuff down there! Lots of fish and anemones and doodlebugs and shit all else. So that's a big wow right there-- there's tons of little guys down there. The second wow is that because there's so much stuff alive down there in the dark, and so much of it blinks like fireflies, that blinking like a firefly is one of the most common forms of animal communication there is on the planet! More so than making a sound or releasing a pheremone, and far outpacing posting online. If you were an alien looking at Earth, strictly by the numbers, you might opt for blinking lights as your first stab at communicating.

In my experience a blinking light usually means "I'm here", that's not a bad start to a conversation. A solid light is just "some light" but a blinking light is like 🔴 I ⚫ am 🔴 doing ⚫ this 🔴 on ⚫ purpose 🔴 to ⚫ tell 🔴 you ⚫ I'm 🔴 here ⚫ Hi 🔴. Of course once you get into it there's more nuance there. I had a job for a night (volunteer position) blinking a flashlight at people trying to find the entrance to a cool illegal rave in the dark and heavy rain along a muddy embankment-- the key point of nuance was communicating both "it's right here" and "I'm not a cop" with a minimum of blinks, which I was great at, I think. I guess it's the same thing with deep sea bioluminescent shrimp or whatever- you want to blink like "let's party", not like "step into my mouth". Also, you don't want to run out your battery before the party even starts.

How this all goes back to the little flowers, I do not know. Maybe it's as simple as letting your eyes adjust, and looking for the little lights, blinking in the underbrush.

Light Housekeeping