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Nature Actually Wants Us to Flower (and the Thrilling Return of "Bathroom as Metaphor")

Posted Apr 28 2013 7:51am
So the woman pushing the baby in the stroller walks by often. She seems interested in my garden, especially now, when all my work and waiting from fall and winter explodes in color and height and movement. The winter rye. The hairy vetch. The crimson clover. But this year, something else, especially. Something that is literally everywhere the eye can see, from way up the street.

"What are those yellow flowers?" she asks me. I've told you about them already. Well, not the flowers, which are on tall stems and sway in unison in the wind, and taste a bit peppery and delicious when I pop them in my mouth, which is often.

I harvested at least 100# of turnips this year (not including greens)
I've told you about the turnips and how I tossed seeds recklessly last fall. Well, now they are flowering. Who would know that such a lowly, unglamorous root crop has such beautiful flowers? I laugh a bit when I tell people, "They are turnips." Their faces often go blank, first trying to actually conjure up the idea of turnips and then trying to attach that thought to this extraordinary beauty.

And then, for extra measure, I throw in about the greens, how they are sweet again (after going through a bitter stage, which, I realize now, was just nature's way of telling me it was time to eat the roots, which we did, daily, for probably two months). We're eating at least a large colander full of them a day again (more than the bagful that would sell for $4 at area farmers markets), and we know the end is near. I've already pulled out piles of the plants and laid them neatly right there where they were growing so they can decompose, thereby feeding the microbial life in the soil, emitting their special chemical that will deter pests all summer, and serving as a water-conserving mulch for the heat of summer ahead in our drought-prone climate.

I always let some plants go completely to seed, however, which many of the plants are now doing, because, yes, I like to save them to use again (the turnip seeds will get planted in October, with the hopes for another banner months-long harvest from greens to roots to greens again (although my top turnip -eater wo n't be here next year).  
But that's not all. I let them go to seed because I am in awe of the final flowering of life. I like to share that with people of all ages (especially children, regarding their grandparents, and anyone, really, who may be stuck in a rut), about how nature actually wants us to flower as we age, that it's only natural to show the world our final explosion of beauty. Here's what I wrote years ago about this final flowering of life:
Edible flowers remind me of so many older people I see, quietly quilting and painting and creating such beauty, expressing a lifetime of stored energy and inspiration, while younger, more supposedly productive life buzzes on around them. There they are, in all their glory, flowering exuberantly, reaching their arms boldly to the sun, singing a final song and leaving an indelible mark on all they touch as their seeds spread to foster new growth long after they are gone.

Here are the turnip flowers serving as a backdrop of this photo of yet another one of my quick herb-drying racks, which is turning into my favorite gift to give. (See how to make it here .)

Here are the turnip flowers (along with knockout roses, mint, winter rye, and crimson clover) in a bouquet of flowers which I put in the bathroom on "show nig hts" at my daughter's high school because the bathroom is so disgusting and this little bit of beauty seems to help (see The Bathroom as Metaphor ).

Perhaps when you think of aging now, you'll think of turnips. And you'll see the beauty. Not just in them, but in you.


eclectic food-for-thought for a changing world
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