Quinopode For Diversity in Our Fields and on Our Plates

(email to Xochi, Bard of the Mycellium Clan, 2 may 2016)


Here I am, old bard of the mycellium clan: Syrphant. Yes, that's my name. The plants told me.

Jason, overwhelmed this morning decided to drive out to see a young quinoa crop: a field of one of his farmer friends. The field in question had been troubling him because it has more chenopodim album plants than quinoa plants. He considered it so weedy that it would be lost.

But even though the field is not far from his home and he knows it well he couldn't find it. I made him drive all around the countryside looking for it. The vegetation of the countryside said "we won't let you find the field until you are ready to truly see it."

He drove aimlessly through the countryside. By random, chance on these narrow, crumbly, curvy country roads. He soaked in all the fresh spring greenness of the young wheat, the awakening hedges and the lush ortica along the ditches. He drank in the eagerness of the freshly plowed land, in ovulation, awaiting the maize seed.

Until he metamorphoses from an ugly maggot into the Syrphant.

The name the plants gave me is so full of symbolism: Most importantly the word "servant." I am here to serve. 

Secondly the image of the syrphid fly. You, Xochi, reminded me of myself when I did not see behind the hornet disguise and sought to destroy what I imagined a parasite or aggressive beast capable of inflicting pain. Until you saw that I am a beneficial.

The Hoverfly is unique among insects because it can fly in any direction but also, incredibly, fly while stationary. In one point in all dimensions. Then  up or down to see from different perspectives.

The disguise protects it, but also makes others fear or hate it. They Consider it treacherous, false, pretending. In a way, the fly is pretending to be tough, but is not. Ultimately the disguise is unfortunate, it distorts the communication and most others cannot see that it's true nature is kind. Not a good communicator. A worker. Sadly only some enlightened souls will ever see its true nature.

The syrphid fly does not make any distinction whatsoever between the quinoa and its hated cousin le chenopode. The hoverfly sees that the diversity in the 2 officially distinct species joins together to make a set of very long continua of trait-settings. The quinoa and le chenopode have been erroneously separated by botanists. 

The good of the quinoa is also in the spirit of the chenopode, which was a food of Jason's ancestors Europe. In fact, the chenopode adapted long ago to many environments around the world: wherever the soil was disturbed. It is an early successional. Especially useful for keeping nutrients from leaching. As such it is very close to humans, as they plow and till and apply compost. But man has lost his appreciation for his precious symbiotic plant, failing to see it as a part lf the greater organism of the field, the farm, the farmer, his family, chickens and loved ones.

The plants showed this to Jason and said, "see? the Quinopode is not only for the Andes. It is at home right here in Anjou, and it is glad that with the spread of its Andean personality it is discovering itself in its full diversity. The field you seek is not a competition between quinoa and chenopde, it is a field of Quinopode in happy reunion with itself. Quinoa's spread in Europe, of which you are a part, is part of the awakening of the global bond between man, soil and the Quinopode. Which is  neither native nor foreign in any land, but has helped the whole world and will do so with increasing effectiveness now." The Syrphant will serve.

Thirdly in the symbolism of this name is the word "surf." You, bard, accuse me of surfing. I disagree, but I accept with good humor the insult, turning it into a joke and a symbol, just as Diogenes accepted the name Dog.

Finally the word "ant" as the suffix of the name: the ant is useless and helpless alone. I must be always part of a greater organism, servant to a greater will, and never, ever forget that.

So the plants think rhe name they gave me, Syrphant, is a good one. And Jason was led to the field of Quinopode.