PRICKLY LETTUCE or COMPASS PLANT, skyview! (Lactuca serriola) with
characteristic white veins, and fine prickly spines along midrib [ click photo for next . . . ]
PRICKLY LETTUCE(Lactuca serriola) is a native of Europe
which grows as a wayside weed in N. America. In Europe, it has
a long history as a vegetable——it is a close relative
of garden lettuce, despite its more bitter taste—and can be
eaten both raw and cooked. The bitterness is caused by an
abundance of milky sap. Use by the Greeks dates back to
before the time of Socrates (5th century Bce.) to Pythagoras,
calling it Eunuch. This was because of its reported ability to
cause urination and relieve an excess of Eros or sexual desire.
ANOTHER interesting common name is COMPASS PLANT, for the
distinctive manner in which the upper leaves twist around
to hold their margins upright, an idea for solar biomimicry
perhaps. Once you know this feature, you can easily spot
prickly lettuce along roadsides at a considerable distance.
Other possibilities for designs inspired by Nature is the
use of the leaf's venation pattern as models for patterns
of spatial distribution. Imagine a town laid out along
the lines of the prickly lettuce's network of white veins!
It might be a very much more liveable space than the square
grids that now everywhere, like prison bars before an
innocent young woman's face, dominate and scar the
On the road in the Pacific Northwest.
When we are TURNED AWAY from the Sun,
we see the leaf's texture, its movement in the wind,
its inner structure and pattern.
FACING THE SUN--backlit, the leaf suddenly
comes alive, like the music of a poem
we finally remember to read out loud.
(52) Life-like mechanical simulations of outward
patterns of movement do not mean that we have
necessarily understood or discovered the inner
workings of the generation of organic form.
The computer programmed to make a rubato while
performing Bach does not do so because it is actually
listening; Or because it has perceived the rubato’s
meaning within the movement of the piece as a whole.
Nor have the stunningly beautiful computer displays
of fern-like fractals necessarily captured the essence
of the fern’s inner formative movements.
What the program programs is the intellect manifest
in past performances; What it necessarily leaves out is
listening itself—or intelligence—which is not of the
past, but always now, of the present moment.
Ice Falls Afternoon
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