I imagine that as long as there have been landscape painters, there have been attempts to capture the serene and comforting scene of a field of ripening whatever. I don’t know why it has such a powerful pull on our minds. Maybe it comes from the human brainstem and its primitive focus on whatever is needed for survival, as such a view could signal “long term lunch!” There’s also the draw of anything straight-up gorgeous. Perhaps I should consult the classical philosophers with their discourses on ideals of beauty. I think, though, I’d rather sit in rapt contemplation of an April field of yellow flowers in northern Germany.
Though Liebling and Chiquito live in the city of Kiel, it’s only a short drive from their apartment before you find yourself flanked by carpets of color. Strangely, Sting’s song, “Fields of Gold” always comes to mind when I see the view, even though he was talking barley, which isn’t so much gold as it is a pleasing, lion’s-mane tan. In the case of my current fascination, the color is definitely bright lemon yellow.
Beauty must account for the pull in this direction, because these flowers don’t look like food, at least to us non-cud-chewing sorts. But there are calories there for us, nonetheless. If you speak German you call the plant “raps,” if you speak botany you know it as “brassica napus,” and if you’ve had an email account for more than 10 years you probably know it as “likely to bring about the end of civilization as we know it.” Raps is also rapeseed, the source of canola oil.
Back in the day, I got many well-meaning emails warning me to avoid any number of things, among them canola oil: industrial lubricant, insect repellant, likely source of mad cow disease, and inevitable instigator of the decline of my unsuspecting family’s health if we were to be so foolish as to ingest. At some point I discovered snopes.com, which has helped me on various occasions to separate fact from fiction, and lets me sleep at night, despite the canola oil in the cupboard. (My Spanish cupboard has sunflower oil instead, as it is easiest to get here–I wonder if someone has a warning for me about its dangers?)
As usually happens in the case of worrying emails, there are kernels of truth tangled up in hype and misinformation. Yes, rapeseed is connected to mustard, but not as in “first cousin to mustard gas” but as in part of the mustard family of plants, along with cabbage, watercress and radish. There also could conceivably be a nice Nigerian civil servant who, because of complicated political machinations, needs your kind assistance in exchange for a considerable sum of money which will be sent to you shortly, but I wouldn’t stand out by the mailbox.
Thinking about urban legends and scams and email chains is not nearly as pleasant or restful as contemplating lovely squares of yellow in a spring landscape. Let’s get back to thinking about the flowers. Here are three of my young blossoms.