Anas rubripesSometimes in the shit-storm of bullshit that so overwhelms us, we just need to stop and look at the world. Given that it’s February and all the roses are imported from horror-stricken farms where the workers are brutalized and doused with toxic chemicals and then the roses themselves are stripped of their thorns — what the fuck is a rose without thorns? — it sure and hell is not a case of stopping to smell the roses. Come back in May and June for that, but remember that many varieties of even the live ones have be de-odored by their Dr. Frankensteins.

Instead, I offer you the speculum of an American Black Duck (Anas rubripes) beading a drop of water. And only a mere simulacrum of one, at that, an arraignment of digital data, a window of a window, but one that should still do something to set your hearts a-racing. How anyone could ever go back to the television again after seeing one of these with one’s own two eyeballs is beyond my understanding.

Feathers are colored in two ways or in a combination of these two ways: with pigments, or, as here, structurally. The duck’s speculum (the word means “window,” ladies) refracts the light striking it. The microscopic design of the feathers act as prism to broadcast what we read as iridescence. Structural color isn’t always iridescent, however: the blues, as in the Blue Jays, are structural not pigment.

And now consider what this must look like to another bird: birds can see ultra-violets that we can not because they have four cones to our three.

4 Responses to “Beautiful”

  1. 1 Teal Eve's February 14, 2015 at 10:32 am

    A wonderfully evocative post for this 14th of February. Thanks for the bouquet colors and words.

  2. 2 Peggy Herron February 14, 2015 at 12:36 pm

    Thank you for the fascinating information. I recently learned about how birds stay waterproof . I had asumed they just were not that they needed to continue their waterproofing as part of their grooming . I think I phased that correctly .

  3. 3 auroramama February 14, 2015 at 4:32 pm

    Stop picking on rose breeders about scentless roses. It’s true that commercial large-scale greenhouse roses are less likely to be scented than roses meant to grow in gardens. But no one is de-odoring any roses. It’s just that sometimes roses without much scent have other properties that people need.

    Not every species rose has a scent, but some without have properties we love, like disease-resistance, reblooming, or *any color on the yellow side of rose red*. Rosa foetida, the source of the entire range of color from lemon yellow to scarlet, has no sweet scent. And for some reason red roses with strong scent, the ones Americans associate with love, are especially prone to disease. Every breeder wants their roses to smell wonderful. But if you’re selling to commercial landscapers who want to cover half an acre of ground with perpetually blooming shrubs that discourage trespass, you may be willing to sell roses without scent if that’s what has the best properties otherwise.

    In any case, you may be maligning the rose when it’s the florist’s treatment that suppresses the scent. To keep a rose in tight hybrid-tea pointed rosebud form is to keep it from opening as long as possible. A rose in stasis has little scent.

    In any case, the apogee of non-scented hybrid tea roses was in the 50s and 60s. What’s sold to home gardeners these days usually carries aroma descriptions as pornographic as a wine review’s.

    I agree entirely about rose growing as industrial farming and worker exploitation, of course. There was a California company selling bouquets of organic roses, garden varieties as opposed to florist varieties, but only during the season.

  4. 4 Megan Gavin February 15, 2015 at 10:29 pm

    I like your Hallmark holiday edge. More cutting than a rose’s non-thorn.

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