Over at the Carrot Ranch this week Charli Mills is talking about onions; onions and gophers, and how she planted onions to keep the gophers out of her veggie patch, only to find that gophers love onions! Who would have thought?
Just as children’s experiences differ, Charli’s experience with onions is very different from mine. Other than a few old onions sprouting in my veggie basket, I’d never grown onions until my lovely daughter Bec and son-outlaw Glenn planted some shallots in a pot for me. While the shallots have done well I rarely think to include them in my cooking as I am not used to having anything edible in my garden.
My dad was a one-time small crop farmer and, even after that, grew veggies for our home (and neighbourhood) use throughout most of my childhood. Bec loves to garden and harvests bountiful produce from her garden. Somehow the green thumb skipped me. Or maybe it didn’t, Maybe I just haven’t given it a chance to thrive.
While I have some knowledge about the source of my fruit and vegetables and how they grow, I had never given much consideration to the humble onion. I knew they grew as bulbs in the ground, with roots to hold them into the soil. I also knew they sprouted green bits at the top if left too long in the cupboard. But I had never thought about onion flowers.
Last week I discovered a flower in my patch of shallots. I was intrigued. I suppose if I had thought about it I would have realised that onions grow from seeds. Don’t most plants grow from seeds? But I hadn’t thought about it. I just bought them in the supermarket or from the greengrocer as I needed them. I definitely hadn’t thought about onion, or shallot, flowers. But this flower is beautiful.
The discovery was a timely reminder that it is all too easy to take too much for granted, to cease to wonder about the amazing things occurring close by every day; to forget to notice and appreciate. Keeping a sense of curiosity alive, in ourselves as well as in children, is a very important thing. So how do we do that?
First of all we need to stop, notice and wonder. Would Newton have noticed the apple fall if he hadn’t stopped to notice and wonder? Would George de Mestral have invented Velcro if he hadn’t given more thought to the burrs stuck to his trousers? Our thoughts do not have to make such an impact on a global scale. They just need to keep the wonderment alive in our own lives. I have talked about the importance of a sense of wonder before here and here.
In addition to the shallot flower, I made another recent and amazing discovery in my own back yard. Over the past six weeks or so a wattle tree, planted just over a year ago, has been in bloom. We spotted the buds and eagerly awaited the sweet-smelling blossoms, making frequent inspections and eagerly predicting how long we would have to wait.
During one of these inspections I noticed a ladybird on a leaf. Soon Bec noticed a larva. Then we spotted more, many more, both ladybirds and larvae on the tree. Suddenly it occurred to us that, if there were adults and larvae, there would probably be pupae too. We looked closely and with intent and soon discovered every life stage on the tree, including pupae, eggs and mating pairs of adults. We watched larvae pupate and ladybirds emerge.
I had always enjoyed watching the butterfly’s life stages in the classroom, but to watch the ladybird’s life cycle right in my own back yard is very special. Opportunities such as this are there waiting for us to take notice, waiting for us to share it with others, to inspire curiosity and wonder.
Then there is the wonder inside our plants, such as a star inside each apple, the segments of an orange, and the concentric circles in an onion.
Which brings me back again to onions and the flash fiction challenge set by Charli Mills to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes onions. I thought she had me stumped this time. Until I thought about the wonder and beauty of the onion flower; the way that delving into the complexity of a character is often referred to as peeling back the onion layers, and the shared ability of both onions and characters, including Marnie, to grow.
As Marnie reaches a sense of closure to and release from the torment of her childhood, she discovers that she no longer needs an onion to hide the real reason for her tears, and can accept that beauty, including her own inner beauty, can spring from desolation and neglect.
Before she left she was drawn back for one last look at her hiding place. There, between the garden and the wall, her tears would fall as she dreamt of better things and planned her escape.
The veggie garden was hardly recognisable, camouflaged with weeds. But wait! A flower? She stooped to look. An onion flower?
“Ha!” she thought, recalling the times she had pulled up and bitten into an onion to explain her tears should anybody ask, though they never did. Even untended a flower could bloom, as she too had blossomed despite the harshness of those days.
Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts about any aspect of this post and flash fiction.