Friday, August 13, 2021; Case Note No. 13
Hello again, it’s me Ms. AAngyl, the Blogging Unicorn. The Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics officially ended last Saturday, August 7, 2021, one day before the peak of the Lion's Gate. The Games concluded with a spectacular, extraordinarily colourful, diverse and joyful Closing Ceremony. The XXXII Olympiad was noteworthy on many levels. The challenges, achievements, breakthroughs, and milestones in many sports, as well as some lessons, will be subjects of discussion for months and years to come. (See Wikipedia articles and hundreds of sports sites, etc., for further details.)
Being one of the few horses with a blog, I am here to speak for the non-humans who participated in activities surrounding the Tokyo 2020 Games. By now, most of the horses and their riders have flown back to their home countries, located all over the planet. Now is as fitting a time as any to carry on with a topic I first addressed in our book, and in Case Note No. 2, regarding the sensibilities of plants, animals, and mechanical creations. In particular, I have more to share regarding inter-species communication and collaboration among flora and fauna, including interactions with humans. For today, I will restrict my remarks on this topic to news from the world of plants.
The uplifting overall theme of the delayed Tokyo 2020 Olympics was: Moving Forward. For sure, we are all for that! The sub-theme chosen by the Japanese organizers for the Opening and Closing Ceremonies was: United in Emotion. As we shall see, the flowering plants truly took this theme to heart. The entertainment portions of both Olympic ceremonies featured state-of-the-art projection mapping technology using drones. This was utilized within the Olympic Stadium to create stunning visual images that magically augmented the stage and towering space above it, during live performances that showcased Japanese culture and artistry.
Impressive as these ceremonies were, of more interest to the horses in attendance, and to the Plant Kingdom in particular, were the daily award ceremonies that were conducted as top athletes or teams in each sport received their Gold, Silver, and Bronze medals. The non-human participants (as well as enlightened observers of all stripes throughout the Universe), were delighted to see that for the first time since 2012, the victorious human athletes were decorated with "victory bouquets," this year referred to as "mementos." In case you did not see any of these, they were lovely, and carried a deep significance and a message of hope and resilience. You can see images of these bouquets and read all about them online.
In times past, people would send unspoken messages to one another by gifting others with particular types of flowers, whose associated sentiment was understood. Laudably, this tradition was moved forward again in the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics. The beautiful memento bouquets contained members of the Plant Kingdom that were grown mainly in areas of Japan that were devastated by the Great East Japan Earthquake of 2011, and are still struggling to recover from it. The representative species are: sunflowers from Miyagi, eustoma and Solomon's seal from Fukushima, and gentians from Iwate. Aspidistras, symbolizing the host city of Tokyo, are also included in the victory bouquets.
The sunflowers of Miyagi Prefecture were first planted by parents of children who sought safety from the the oncoming tsunami on a hill in that region, but sadly lost their lives. Every year the entire hill is covered with sunflowers, said to be a reflection of the memories of people affected by the disaster. The eustomas and Solomon's seal were grown in Fukushima Prefecture. After the earthquake, a non-profit organization was established there, to grow flowers for economic recovery when the land was rendered unfit for agriculture. Iwate Prefecture is widely known for its production of gentians. Fittingly, their Indigo blue colour is the same as that of the Tokyo 2020 emblem.
Needless to say, the Plant Kingdom is as pleased as punch to have shared the global stage with the human athletes, who were always seen beaming for the cameras, holding their medals next to their hearts with one hand while victoriously raising their bouquets high above their heads. What wonderful exposure for the flowers and plants!! (BTW, be it known that equine athletes who are medalists would also appreciate receiving a bouquet, preferably of the edible variety. We are working with the Parisians on this matter for 2024. Sunflowers are always a good choice. While living on Shore Road, free to wander the property, I found even the dried leaves of sunflower stalks to be quite delicious, even in November.)
Of course, of course, sunflowers have never been wallflowers. Now, having been in the global limelight during Lion's Gate 2021 (in fact, fully anticipating that exposure to have occurred last summer), some of them have become truly big-headed, not to mention proactive. Sunflowers are now breaking new ground in survival tactics, and in communicating and manifesting their habitats of choice. To wit, several bold and independent young seeds (possibly, but not necessarily, descended from last year's plants, since there are some packets of black sunflower seeds from Dollarama kept on the property, as food for the birds) hatched a plan of their own. This was to survive and plant themselves this year, by way of some avian or red squirrel friends. Three of them were successful, and having arrived in their chosen habitats, this summer they germinated and cropped up in unexpected places around Wildflower Cottage.
Here's the back story. Although some perennial sunflowers exist, these plants are generally known as annuals. Thus, each spring Johannes buys seeds from tall and dwarf varieties of sunflower plants, and plants them strategically in a raised bed along the south side of Wildflower Cottage. (This used to result in plants of predictable heights, planted in locations to coordinate with the positions of the windows. However, as seen in the above photo of the mid-August 2021 crop growing in the south bed, the sunflower seeds he planted this year were having none of it LOL.) In the fall, when the plants have finished blooming, the bees have stopped visiting, and nothing but the naked seeds remain in the flower heads, he cuts them off and throws them on the ground under the spruce tree, as a treat for the local wild birds to enjoy. (That is, those seeds that are still left, after the bluejays have taken as many as they can get their beaks on, by dive-bombing the flower heads on the stalks, and plucking the seeds right out of them.)
It remains a mystery what mechanism(s) was chosen by the adventuresome sunflower seeds, to deliver them to their desired germination sites. However it happened, one very independent seed grew up tall and proud facing the eastern sun in David & Valerie's field near the edge of the property. It is now proudly sporting two big flowers. Perhaps, like the inspirational Sunflowers of Miyagi, it aspires to filling the whole field with generation after generation of its progeny. Two other seeds preferred to remain closer to the house, but again on the east side, probably being well aware of the special attention that Johannes lavishes on the colourful little mixed flowering annuals that he always plants in the window boxes and in planters on the deck in that area.
Accordingly, one attention-seeking sunflower seed decided to put itself on a pedestal right by the door, and found its way into the soil of the perfect planter. Oddly, any photograph of this stealthy plant is not able to be cropped such that the head of this sunflower is visible in the picture. Whatever. It is there. Ye shall know it by its leaves.
The other East Side Sunflower chose to co-exist with a planter full of Nasturtiums that Johannes had grown from a mixture of seeds he had in his shop, as usual of unrecorded origin. The Nasturtium seeds themselves had their own agenda, i.e., to harmonize particularly skillfully with their immediate environment. It was their desire to germinate in colours that matched the two vehicles that inhabit their space between the back deck and the big spruce tree where the birds hang out. Like most males in Cape Breton, Johannes finds it logical and convenient to navigate the rough terrain on the island with off-road recreational vehicles of various types. Among the collection of mechanical angels that serves this purpose at Wildflower Cottage is the 8-wheeled yellow amphibious ARGO ATV known as Surf-N-Turf, and a relative newcomer to the family, Ludmilla (whom Margaret calls Earl), the German-origin-Russian-made orange sidecar motorcycle. These two park side-by-side LOL when they are not out on a mission. So the Nasturtium seeds agreed amongst themselves that they would bloom only in appropriate shades of yellow and orange. Well done! Not to be outdone, a sunflower seed got wind of this scheme, and arranged to co-habitate in the deck planter with them, with the agreement that they would bloom first, and it would bloom at a later date.
As should now be patently obvious, plants are quite skilled at inter-species communication and activism, and are using increasingly sophisticated tactics all the time. Till next week...