Reference: The Last Battle, Cornelius Ryan.
I’ve still been thinking about alarms we might use. Please note that these are not based on dreams, except the dream we all have of a world made perfect. By perfect I mean one where we find out there are problems and can do things that fix them.
An alarm that it is time to make something in the slow cooker. Many of us have slow cookers not being used for their primary purpose. This can be okay, since we can use them for their secondary purpose, which is to be a big heavy thing covered in slightly greasy dust that’s on top of the refrigerator or kitchen cabinets, and that somehow falls away from us whenever we try to take it down. It’s a demanding job but what else could possibly do it? The blender? The rice cooker? The jumbo-size plastic bucket from Wall Drug, a place neither we nor anyone we know has ever been?
Yes, clearly. Any of these, plus the fondue pot and the bread maker that still has some kind of crust in it from 2014, can fill the slow cooker’s secondary purpose. So we need a reminder of that, and that’s what this alarm will do. It’s not an urgent alarm, just a reminder that, hey, you could take two hands full of edible things, put them in a pot, fill the rest with water, and set it going for between three and twelve hundred hours, so why aren’t you?
An alarm that someone might put a full travel mug in their backpack or suitcase or something. This is not based on anything I’ve seen someone do. It’s just that we have a really good travel mug. It’s dishwasher-safe, for one thing. And it’s scary good at keeping things warm. It’s kept an ordinary load of coffee warm for stretches of up to eight months. We don’t know if it could do longer. We wanted to put it in the dishwasher. Anyway this doesn’t call on unusual magic. It’s just really good at forming a closed seal to hold its liquids. Now here’s where it gets alarm-worthy.
My love uses a small backpack to lug stuff around. And sometimes at the end of the day tosses the empty travel mug in there, freeing up hand slots. And this has made me realize that someone could just toss a full travel mug, coffee and all, into their backpack or suitcase or anything else holding other stuff. And move around like that! This makes my feet crawl, and not in the good ways. I mean in the ways like when I hear how in the 60s NASA sketched some plans to make a Lunar Flyer, that would just be this platform with little rockets they could set off in pulses, using the mechanic we would come to know from Flappy Bird but at the Sea of Tranquility. The idea was this way astronauts could cover a lot more ground, then crash into it. And that’s the feeling this “chuck a full travel mug into your suitcase” idea gives me. There is absolutely nothing in place to stop this from happening. We need something in place to stop this from happening.
An alarm that we’re about to over-water a plant. Obviously this isn’t needed for every plant. Christmas trees, for example, have these nice huge buckets of water and we can see whether we’re putting too much in: it spills out onto the skirt. But for other plants it’s harder. We can see that, say, the soil is pretty dry, since the cactus is smothering itself in skin lotion that isn’t helping. Watering is the obvious answer. But we start out and the water just disappears into soil that isn’t made the slightest bit less dry. As we pour in the first three gallons of water the soil somehow becomes more dry. And then suddenly one more drop and it’s too wet. The flower pot is this stew ready to be put in the slow cooker, and there’s a waterfall of mud and cactus remnants pouring out over the bookcase, across the floor, and down into the basement, sweeping away whatever’s on the floor. This is piles of magazines and back issues of the local free alt-weekly newspaper that we can’t agree whether we’ve read. This is not just obviously inefficient. It’s also inefficient in the un-obvious ways. Anyway we need an alarm to let us know we’re entering the one-24th of a second window between “needs more water” and “is overwatered” so we can stop pouring.
There are probably more things we could be alarmed about give a fair start.
So please here take a moment to point and snicker at a pepper plant that, despite having ALL SUMMER LONG to work on it, never managed to grow more than about four inches tall. And then used that chance to spit out like fourteen green peppers, most of them taller than it is.
So to sum up, plants: what’s the deal, huh? Seriously, what the heck? You know? Right?
“Curious what a Corpse Flower smells like?” asks the teaser to the plant conservatory event. I don’t know how to answer. I have a presupposition, yes. But why ask the question if the answer isn’t a surprise? Wouldn’t it be wild if, like, they smelled of vanilla lip balm, and the whole “Corpse” name was some kind of joke that got out of hand and nobody even remembers how it started anymore?
Well, I didn’t see the listing until the day after the event, so, I just won’t know unless I ask anybody who does. Too bad, I guess?
Moving a plant is not a chore you should rush. Really you shouldn’t be rushing any chores, what with how they’re chores. A rushed chore feels skittish, much as you might, and will try to run off. A defensive chore ends up spraying out side tasks as distractions. You may have noticed the results of this. You start off trying to organize the shelf of Books That Friends Who Don’t Read Gave You. You’ve barely gotten to alphabetizing the fourth copy of the novelization to The Thirteenth Floor, which you spent a quixotic two months defending as far superior to The Matrix before remembering that you could go outside and roll down a grassy hillside all afternoon.
Somehow you find yourself in the refrigerator, shelves cleared, sponging off some congealment that seems to be maple syrup hybridized with vinaigrette and store-brand Dr Pepper equivalent. In someone else’s house, one you’re thinking of buying at the tax auction. You have no recollection how it happened. I couldn’t tell you how many times this has happened to me, not since they put all those tags on the cinder-block house two streets over. This is just how chores work.
Nevertheless before moving a plant — remember that? — you need to prepare. Without proper planning even something as simple as cutting down a weed tree could cause the Moon to tumble out of its orbit and go rolling through Appalachia, leaving many stricken West Virginians considerably flatter. How is left as an exercise to the student.
The first step is to warn the plant as early as possible that it will be moved. Moving is traumatic. The plant needs to appreciate the friends and familiar places it’s about to be torn from. They also can get started dreading the new cliques they’ll be plunged defenselessly into a month before the end of the school year. Remember to insist to the plant that it has a say in this move, although not one that would change your plans.
The next step is to have a place to move the plant to. There are great ideas to grow plants hydroponically, without any particular location. It turns out hydroponically means that it’s four spindly lima beans in injected-foam cups during second grade. This may not fit your plant-relocation needs, what with how you have a fourth-grade understanding of fractions and compound sentences.
A great place to deposit a plant is inside a hole. You can purchase a hole, of course. But a great many people with mobility issues depend on pre-dug holes. I feel guilty taking any stock away from them. Funny, that’s the same look the person at the garden supply store gave me. Anyway, I’m able to dig roughly cylindrical holes myself. I encourage that for people who can do it, since it’s such a great experience.
The easiest way to dig a roughly cylindrical hole is with a post-hole digger. Yes, it’s way too much mechanism for this task. It’s just so much fun to lift the digger in the air and toss it in the ground with this satisfying CHUNK, and squeeze it and twist it around and scoop up a heap of dirt and swing it over, dropping the dirt on an unsuspecting smaller sibling. Of course you need a post-hole digger for this. And you can’t just wander in to the grocery store and go to the “P” section and buy the first thing you see. They’ll be filed under “D” for digger. Unless your grocery store uses Reverse Polish Notation, in which case you’re back to “P” again, but who does that? Who isn’t trying to make a point, I mean?
You should keep digging until you have enough hole, which comes when you feel the sense of inner tranquility that comes from outgrowing the idea that you’re a giant long-necked dinosaur used down at the quarry and settling into the idea that you’re pretending to be a hydraulic pile driver. One you do, ponder how it is you have no idea what a pile driver does. I mean, there’s the obvious: it temporarily flattens cartoon animals, but gets broken by the mighty skull of Popeye the Sailor Man. It turns out pile drivers are used to drive piles. Here a pile is a long cylinder of something that’s pretty stern. They get driven into soft soil so that the piles make a better foundation that the dirt does. This may help you feel a sense that the world is abundant in things that are ordinary and unobtrusive but really quite clever.
This might make the plant seem like a rather provincial concern. That’s all right. Explain this to the plant and it will figure out arrangements for itself.
Because how would I possibly send either of them a message except on Twitter, e-mail, texting their phones, or calling them, or maybe mentioning to my father so he could send them a note on Facebook? Anyway, the noon news had a quick report about the new-ish roller coaster at Cedar Point amusement park. (They built it using the bones of an old roller coaster is why the “ish”.) In going to break, the news anchor mentioned that the park opens for the season May 5th. And then, teasing the weather report coming up, said that it looks this could be a great weekend to go to Cedar Point. And I don’t know whether they mean because it’d be fun to spend 48 hours with our faces pressed up against the glass window, making sad noises at a gardener who’s just trying to get some azaleas up and running beside the Midway Carousel.
Also they sent a reporter there for some publicity event. It’s the reporter they mention in their house ads as liking roller coasters, so, good use of your staff there. They had video of him on the new roller coaster, but the only person they actually quoted on-camera saying anything about it was somebody I don’t know who said of the ride, “It’s breathtaking. It takes your breath away,” which I admire for clearing the matter up once and for all.
And now it’s been literally days since our pet rabbit was last out, and so of course things are going wrong. The weed maples have been brutal, scattering all over everywhere and everything, and now some of the hostas came in to complain that some of the little trees have been ganging up and bullying them. I take this seriously, of course, as hostas are really not drama-prone plants and I just know if they’re driven to complain then some plants with lower self-esteem, like the lemon balm, are probably being driven almost out of their xylem with frustration. Don’t tell our rabbit; he’d insist that he told us so, and he didn’t say anything of the sort when we’ve talked about the yard.
PS to whoever at WordPress is in charge of stuff in general: is “xylem” a plant thing? If not pls replace with something that is. Pref not too sticky; have enough of those things that need weird-colored goopy things to clean. Tnx.
“Good, you’re here,” said our pet rabbit as I got downstairs in the morning, so I was suspicious. “Because the amaryllis is making trouble.”
I was skeptical. After a somewhat roudy youth, the amaryllis had settled down to a reasonable maturity, taking up a good part of the living room and holding web interviews in which it rages about other cities’ bike-sharing programs. The plant’s crazy, but a well-behaved, faintly amusing kind of crazy.
“Seriously! I overheard it planning to break through the window and grab the neighbor’s car.” A previous owner sealed the dining room window shut, we suspect by vacuum-welding it. There’s one pane sealed so tight that light can’t get through.
The rabbit rattled his cage bars. “Just let me at it a couple minutes, I can get it under control!”
“I’ll consider it,” I said. If the amaryllis is able to get the window in the dining room to open I might just pay it for the carpentry work.
But I could swear the plant cackled.
There’s nothing quite like wandering around a garden nursery looking at all the various tiny plants that I’m far too stupid to actually manage. Of course you can say that about many things: there isn’t anything quite like building a multi-use sports arena out of nothing but discarded satellite TV dishes, for instance, unless you count building several single-use sports arenas all close up against each other. But that shouldn’t be counted against the fun of wandering around all these little rows of plants nestled in tiny plastic pots and reading how relentlessly Anglo-Saxon a name they can get, and what sorts of folklore attach to them.
Many plants enjoy these blunt, old-fashioned names that speak of their folkloric origin or of something we were trying to keep secret. Putting the secret right there in the name of the plant doesn’t seem to have worked but bear in mind, before the rise of mass printing where were we going to put secrets instead?
Shunted Gutter-Berrys, also known as King Pym’s Chortles. These are found lining the roofs that other, lesser, plants build to shelter them from the elements and clumsy, plummeting chipmunks. They have become invasive in parts of the country (any country) with a chipmunk shortage, such as the space between eight and twelve feet above the ground and away from all trees or other structures. A post-Columbian Exchange plant, these were first identified by settlers in Connecticut who asked the Indians what they were, and didn’t recognize sarcasm when they heard it. Their flowering between the 30th of April and the 1st of May is considered a sign that your calendar-maker ripped you off.
Carpet seeds (Item A). These hardy indoor plants grow to a near-uniform quarter-inch height and reach from stem to stern glare. As such they are reasonably satisfying for use as carpeting, and bring the pleasures of a fresh-mown lawn to wandering down the hall forgetting what you got up for. Watering is not needed after the base layer has grown in; merely occasionally spill a cup of a caffeinated drink such as coffee, tea, or cola onto the blades. Now that you need to, you never will spill a cup again. To ensure the grounds are sufficiently fed we offer a special off-balance motor which randomly shakes a glass or cup (see item 4, omitted for completeness). Rumors about the lawn-carpet capturing small children or pets and dragging them off to photosynthetic lifestyles are misleading. $14.99 per square yard or better offer.
We’ve got a really tall flowering plant here. I have to say it’s an amaryllis, because deep down, I can only think of four names that sound like flowering plants, and those are the rose, the daisy, the amaryllis, and the hypochondria, and I’m pretty sure this isn’t a rose or daisy. Anyway, this plant has been growing so much that if I told you, you’d think I was comically exaggerating. It’s grown about five feet in the last three days and the petals open just enough that it can try grabbing the UPS guy. We’re leaving it beside the window and hoping it doesn’t make demands. Also it’s staring at me.
Shopping malls are complicated and busy things. We need a more relaxing one. I’m thinking here of a zen shopping mall, one stripped of everything distracting about the mall experience. My concept right now is an enclosed area containing just a concrete planter, and one of those perennially green plants of no identifiable species but kind of fern-ish and growing on abandoned quarter-filled cups of coffee, placed next to a Spencer’s Gifts holding a going out of business sale. What do you think?