Arts

What Colour is a Cattail, Anyway?

If you would like to visit the sun, I suggest a late afternoon walk facing west in mid-August. Keep the water at your side and watch where you’re going!

But, what colour is that, anyway? Is light really a colour? It looks like it is received as a colour, only but is something else in itself.

Such beauty! And, yet, here’s what the Canadian Encyclopedia has to say: Cattail, common name for herbaceous, perennial plants (genus Typha) of the cattail family (Typhaceae) which grow in marshes and waterways.

Cattail, common name for herbaceous, perennial plants (genus Typha) of the cattail family (Typhaceae) which grow in marshes and waterways. The name derives from the cylindrical, brown fruiting spikes. At least 8 species exist worldwide; 2 in Canada (narrow-leaved cattail, T. angustifolia, and common cattail, T. latifolia). Clusters of stiff, ribbonlike leaves, up to 3 m (or more) tall, grow from a thick, horizontal rootstock.

This is the common cattail, growing high above the gravel-filled former wetlands of the Okanagan Valley. You might be able to identify it from the description above, but the description says nothing about the experience of walking through the cattails.

 

Here’s what Encyclopedia Britannica has to say:

Cattails are upright perennial plants that emerge from creeping rhizomes. The long tapering leaves have smooth margins and are somewhat spongy. The tiny unisexual flowers are borne on a dense cylindrical spike, with the male flowers located above the female flowers. After releasing their pollen, the male flowers wither and fall off, leaving the characteristic brown furry fruiting spikes. When mature, the spike disintegrates to release cottony masses of minute wind-dispersed seeds.

How unutterably boring and suppressive of life.  Somehow, in a drive to be neutral, the cattail has been lost. For gosh sakes, just look at her!

Oh, but what does Wikipedia say?

Although Typha are native wetland plants, they can be aggressive in their competition with other native species.[10] They have been problematic in many regions in North America, from the Great Lakes to the Everglades.[8] Native sedges are displaced and wet meadows shrink, likely as a response to altered hydrology of the wetlands and increased nutrient levels. An introduced or hybrid species may be contributing to the problem.[11] Control is difficult. The most successful strategy appears to be mowing or burning to remove the aerenchymous stalks, followed by prolonged flooding.[12] It may be more important to prevent invasion by preserving water level fluctuations, including periods of drought, and to maintain infertile conditions.[8]

See that? The infertile language is asking for maintenance of an infertile Earth. Given that a recognition of habitat and use through the patterning called “beauty” is a primary means of human adaptation and survival on Earth, I find it bizarre that humans today would generate those kind of texts, in favour of the Earth, its life, and a life in the Sun.

As a first step in reclaiming our planet from death, we need to create an encyclopedia of beauty, not as an aesthetic effect but as a way of reclaiming our bodies and the Earth of which they are a part. Separating them only leads to this toxic wikipediac boredom:

Typha are aquatic or semi-aquatic, rhizomatous, herbaceous perennial plants.[5]:925 The leaves are glabrous (hairless), linear, alternate and mostly basal on a simple, jointless stem that bears the flowering spikes. The plants are monoecious, with unisexual flowers that develop in dense racemes. The numerous male flowers form a narrow spike at the top of the vertical stem. Each male (staminate) flower is reduced to a pair of stamens and hairs, and withers once the pollen is shed. Large numbers of tiny female flowers form a dense, sausage-shaped spike on the stem below the male spike. In larger species this can be up to 30 centimetres (12 in) long and 1 to 4 centimetres (0.4 to 2 in) thick. The seeds are minute, 0.2 millimetres (0.008 in) long, and attached to fine hairs. When ripe, the heads disintegrate into a cottony fluff from which the seeds disperse by wind.

What an offensive thing to say about one of our great teachers.

Cat Tail, Daughter of the Sun

Let’s go home.

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