Thursday, March 29, 2012

Catkins and Dog Tails

The oak leaves began dropping off this week,
falling to the forest floor, driveways, and decks.
In yesterday's blog, I showed a photo of oak leaves
nestled in a tangle of string-like seeds.
Here it is again:

I call those seeds strands catkins, although I think a true catkin
is more of a branch with bracts, like on a pussy willow.

These stringy, tangly seeds
seem rather exotic when still on their tree,

but once they drop, they quickly lose their charm.
It's not because they are so ubiquitous,
covering sidewalks and piling up along curbs.
And it's not because they are full of pollen.

No, my feeling about the catkins is
that they quickly become a nuisance much the way chewing gum
on the bottom of one's shoe does.

These particular catkins are sticky. They are light.
And bushy dog tails are their favored mode of transportation.
As in this photo:
The catkins attach and entwine themselves in puppy fur,
unaware that their destination is not fertile soil
but the inside of my house.
Well-intentioned seedlings, these catkins are.
They're only trying to reach their full potential, I realize.
But they are delicate. And unlike the oak leaves that hang on
with both hands, feet, and tails through rain, sleet, snow, and wind,  
catkins hang on to the thread on which they are born not at all.
The slightest touch or movement causes them to separate from their string
and burst into a thousand little seeds that end up a thousand different places.
And probably, some of those are back out the door to fertile soil. 
I think this is a good plact to paraphrase Mark Twain: 
If you hold a catkin by the tail,
you learn things you cannot learn any other way.
It seems like there should be a life lesson in there somewhere.

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