Look Around You

Monday Morning Musings:

I saw a van

With the name “Otis”

Neatly labeled on its side.

I thought of elevators.

Of course,

Who wouldn’t?

When our daughters were young,

They noticed the elevators

At my mother’s apartment house

Were made by Otis.

The elevators at my father’s

Were made by another company.

How often do adults observe

Such things?

To us,

The elevators

Were merely useful technology.

To them,

The elevators were different and

Distinct personalities

Leading to new worlds

And adventures.

So many things adults

Never notice

Or pass by

Because they’re commonplace.

I used to sit on the floor

When my children were young,

To glimpse things from their angle,

To anticipate what might be appealing

Or interesting

To their young minds.

Curiosity must be in our genes,

I mean all Earth’s creatures.

Who hasn’t seen an animal explore

What is in that box, bag,

Or hole in the ground?

But humans want to go further.

My husband and I went to the movies.

No, that’s not so far,

But we saw The Martian,

Matt Damon with wry comments

And prodigious feats of memory

Is in survivor mode on Mars.

The Hitchhiker’s Hike to the Galaxy

Says to always carry a towel.

But Matt Damon has potatoes.

And I think about

How ancient peoples

Learned to cultivate the

Toxic tubers.

And make them palatable.

They were grown and

Eaten by the Incas,

Then brought to Spain

By conquerors

Who saw

What they wanted to see,

Who believed they were

In a New World,

When it was merely

New to them.

But they did see potatoes,

Gold of another sort

Becoming a source of fuel for

“The Old World”

Helping to feed

Its people,

And allowing its nations to grow,

While those of the new

Were destroyed

By the conquerors,

Men and microbes.

But exchanges go both ways.

After a time,

The blight traveled, too,

To destroy potatoes in Europe,

And

In Ireland,

Sending more immigrants

From old world

To new.

And helping a

Young nation grow,

At a cost though,

There always is.

Matt Damon’s character

Attempts to conquer

A world that is truly

New–

To humans, anyway.

But it’s a vast universe,

So who knows?

And I wonder about

cross-contamination,

But that’s for another time.

We learn from the movie

That a knowledge of botany

Is important.

So is being able to remember

Past studies,

And to realize

That it often

Takes many minds

To solve a problem.

The movie has fun with music, too,

And I’m reminded of real-life astronaut

Commander Chris Hadfield

Performing “Space Oddity”

Aboard the International Space Station–

One of my most favorite videos ever.

(It’s just possible I’ve watched it over and over.)

Although Capt. Jean-Luc Picard

Remains my ultimate astronaut hero.

What do you mean he’s not real?

Of course he is,

Smart and confident enough

To realize

A child,

Or an alien life form

Might see what others

Do not,

And that “exploring new worlds”

Does mean seeking out

But not conquering.

And music is important

On the Enterprise

And literature

And art

Because these are things that

Make us human.

And our creativity

Enhances our thinking

And ability to solve problems,

Which is important,

Especially if you are ever

Stranded

And left for dead

On an uninhabited planet,

Or anywhere else

For that matter.

I think the lesson,

If there is a lesson

To life,

Is never to stop observing,

To sometimes view things

From a child’s perspective,

And to look at things

In new ways,

And to value your friends

So they will do the utmost

To rescue you

If you are ever marooned,

And to pay attention to every

Little thing–

Because it might save you some day–

And of course,

To bring

Potatoes,

And perhaps a towel.

IMG_2945

“Look at the moon, will you! Tsk-tsk-tsk. Potato weather for sure.”

–Thorton Wilde, Our Town

“It is a mistake to think you can solve any major problems just with potatoes.”

–Douglas Adams, Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

Chris Hadfield sings David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” aboard the International Space Station. Well worth watching.

This Smithsonian Magazine article gives a brief history of the potato.