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Mundane Moments: Atom plant, mother.

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My maternal grandpa was a well-meaning but mediocre photographer, skilled at bringing the shutter down a moment too early or late, or in taking pictures of things that were not as quirky or offbeat (or well-lit) as he thought.

I’m going to dredge some of his efforts out of the family scrapbooks where they sit unappreciated, and bring them out for contemplation.

Another installment, then.

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See those green bushes in the foreground?

What we have here is a rare picture of the atom plant (Marginafolia sacreclaudensis.)

Scrubby and unprepossessing, the atom plant grows in tight clusters in a geographic area roughly equivalent to that traveled by the Marquis de Denonville.

It’s believed that, at one point thousands of years ago, the atom plant dominated the landscape between Albany and Buffalo.

In his journals, the ill-fated 17th-century French explorer Normand Grosgrain cursed the endless acres of atom plants in which he would eventually surrender his life: “They mock my hunger with their fruitlessness … the wind through their twigs is the very call of Death.”

Later settlers found different uses for Marginafolia sacreclaudensis. When soaked in water at length, its branches yielded a refreshing, mildly intoxicating beverage. The effect, the settlers discovered, was even more potent when the roots were included.

Pioneer journals indicate that white and red man alike devastated the landscape throughout the 19th century, tearing acres of atom plants up at the roots to savor its herby, head-swimming tisane.

By 1920, the atom plant was approaching extinction. It clung to life in scattered thickets and fields, primarily in the watersheds of the Genesee and Mohawk rivers.

Slow to regenerate, it has made only a limited recovery in the past century, nurtured by a dedicated few nature lovers who understand its former significance and omnipresence.

No surprise, then, that my grandpa would whip out his camera when he came across a stand of the atom plant and record the moment for posterity. He knew he might never see this rare bird of the floral kingdom again in his lifetime.

As for that half-finished building that happened to be in the background, I dunno what they make there. Hot water or something.

Ontario, New York, 1969.


2 responses »

  1. Kurt:

    You’ve outdone yourself again. This is both brilliant and hysterical to those of us who now reside somewhere traversed by the aforementioned Marquis. I hope readers outside this area comprehend some portion of this masterpiece!

  2. Your analysis reminds me of David Macaulay’s “Motel of the Mysteries”…


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