Sunday, April 09, 2017

a kernel in the mind

"It's a small world, after all./ It's a small, small world."

There. I wrote it. You read it. Just try getting the tune out of your head.

Some people call them ear worms. I call them annoying. Those little phrases or tunes that nestle into your id -- and refuse to be satisfied.

There is one running around in my head right now.

Two years ago, I discovered the Queen Anne palms in my courtyard were not as benign as I had thought. They periodically sprouted a flower stem that looked as if it could be a giant cuttlefish -- with attendant debris (bring forth the guillotine).

Today, while trying to find excuses not to get started on my project of trimming back the vines in the courtyard, I noticed one of the palms had just produced a new flower stem. Quicker than the Red Queen could say "off with her head," I was carrying the stem out to the neighborhood's informal compost heap.

Despite its propensity to create chaos for my patio, the palm flowers have a fascinating structure. They are one of the oldest (and, subsequently, most primitive) flowers on earth.

What has always fascinated me about the flowers is their shape. These are not your usual irises or roses. To look at them, you would not think of them as flowers. They look more like wheat. But, of course, what we call wheat kernels are also primitive flowers.

That is when the ear worm wended its way into my amygdala. Just the sight of the wheat-like flowers set off the cascade.
GRUSHENKO: To die . . . before the harvest. The crops, the grains, fields of rippling wheat. Wheat. All there is in life is wheat.  . . . Oh, wheat! Fields of wheat! A tremendous amount of wheat.  . . . Yellow wheat. Red wheat. Wheat with feathers. Cream of wheat.
SONJA: The last traces of the shimmering dusk are setting behind the quickly darkening evening, and it's only noon. Soon we shall be covered by wheat.
SONJA: Did you say . . . wheat?
GRUSHENKO: Wheat! I'm dead, they're talking about wheat.
It is, of course, one of my favorite (and sillier scenes) of Love and Death, where Woody Allen parodies the Russian novelist -- in this case, Dostoevsky's -- infatuation with wheat.

But knowing that does me no good. The wheat goes on.

Maybe if I share a portion of that scene with you, I can exorcise it. After all, when a demon is expelled, it needs to take up residence elsewhere. Just open your doors.

There, I feel better already. But I still have an urge to cook a bowl of cream of wheat for dinner.

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