Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Hearing a Who

or From Microcosm to Nanocosm

In Horton Hears a Who, the 1954 children's book by Dr. Seuss, Horton the elephant hears a cry for help coming from a speck of dust.  It's made by a Who, one of the many Whos in Whoville, a tiny city on the tiny bit of fluff that is in danger of drifting into the cool of the pool in the jungle of Nool.  Horton saves it and, after many difficulties, he and the Whos convince the harder-of-hearing animals in the jungle that the Whos really do exist.  At long last, the other animals agree to help protect the tiny world.  It sticks in my mind (though I may be mistaken) that the 1970 TV special ends with a Who, on its just-rescued dust mote planet, hearing a cry for help from an even tinier atom of a world, starting the process all over again.

I found myself thinking about ever-decreasing, nesting worlds as I was looking at frost patterns on leaves in the garden, especially on the salad burnet, Susanna Mitchell marguerite daisies, and oregano.  The frost had been so particular, so choosy about where it settled:  on the ruffled edges of the salad burnet, with only a light tracery elsewhere on the leaves, and on the very tips of the hairs on the daisy and oregano leaves—hairs I wasn't really even aware of until the frost caught them.

Here I've just been learning to recognize the microclimates in the garden—to trace the patterns of light and wind and cold from one square foot to the next—and along come the nanoclimates, clamoring for attention, showing that the conditions from one millimeter to the next on a leaf can be just as varied.  I wonder, if we were to descend one level of awareness further, whether we would find that each micrometer has its own set of climatic conditions, too.  And so on, and so on, and so on.

Sometimes, the smaller a world gets, the larger it gets.  Those delicate patterns of ice were so precise and so intriguing (not to mention beautiful) that I found myself (in a mild sort of way) researching frost, nanoclimates, broadleafed evergreens, botanical protections against climatic conditions, and several interesting dead ends and charming byways en route.  I've never done that for mere "leaves"... Sometimes, when a world becomes small, it can expand exponentially.

Does anyone hear a Who?


  1. You are so right - "the smaller a world gets, the larger it gets" - and isn't that sort of delightful and relieving? Knowing there's something smaller but bigger? Your photos are beautiful, as well as your sentiment. I have never known about nanoclimates before, but just read the definition at your link... Fascinating.

  2. That is so true. I love a look into your world of beauty there! I admit to still holding onto our Dr. Suess books here...
    Wishing you blessings of peace and comfort in the new year.

  3. Those are really gorgeous photos.

  4. Thank you all! Zoe--it really is delightful and relieving both--just to know that there's always more, somehow.

    Jan Lyn--I'm not sure you ever outgrow Dr. Seuss. :)