Thursday, June 10, 2010

Clamming. Again.

As fast as that, the wild cherries are gone.

Harper's spends some time this month talking about the food bubble in wheat futures a couple years back--bankers made money, people went hungry. Steven Stoll writes about the problems of agriculture, not the least of which is getting tossed from The Garden.

Still, glimpses of The Garden remain. Wild cherries. Dandelions. Mulberries. Clams.

I am going clamming this weekend. Twice a day the tides wash over a patch of mud behind West Wildwood. Thousands upon thousands of these critters siphon the bay, taking bit and pieces to build themselves, to provide themselves with energy.

The clams are no less wild for their docility.

We eat for two reasons: energy, and stuff to grow or replace what we've lost. The energy ultimately comes from the sun, the stuff from water and carbon dioxide.

Clams are solid. Water, at least at this time of year, is not. I marvel at the intense purple swash inside the shell of a freshly killed quahog. The Europeans marveled at the beauty of silver, our predecessors here marveled at the violet streak found in hard shell clams.

The quahogs intense coloring, found in a place that sees no light until the clam has been slaughtered, defies imagination. The rich indigo purple arrests my eye. I look away briefly, trying to remember its touch on my retina. I cannot.

So I stare at the shell again.

Some folks get their kicks from derivatives on Wall Street, some from dope and booze, some from bought flesh of our own kind.

I'm addicted to clams.

One of the most difficult things for my students to grasp is photosynthesis. A gas, CO2, and a liquid, water, are joined together through the sun's energy to produce the stuff of plants.

Because it makes little sense, most choose to ignore it.

Science is never about making sense. It's about fitting the pieces together in a coherent story that maintains internal consistencies.

At the end of the year, I burn plants grown in class. The flame releases carbon dioxide, the flame releases water. The carbon dioxide came from our breaths, the water poured from our hands.

When I eat my clams, a good chunk of them will be reduced back to the carbon dioxide captured by the plankton they ate the last few years.

That's how it works, or rather, that's how the story goes.