love thursday: on community and corpse flowers

Photographed yesterday, around 1:23 p.m.

You thought I'd forgotten, didn't you?

Not a chance.  I've been as obsessed with the blooming of the corpse flower at the Houston Museum of Natural Science as ever; I have, however, done you the favour of not obsessing about it here, on Chookooloonks.  Lois (the corpse flower) is taking her own sweet time blooming:  as you can see above, she's starting to open up a bit, but she's still not at full bloom.  And so we continue to wait. 

While I've been waiting (and obsessing), I've had a lot of time to think about Lois, and everything that is going on around her.  I mean, if you think about it, Lois is sort of the ultimate Beauty of Different.  Let's face it:  she's sort of odd-looking.  When I learned her Latin name, Amorphophallus Titanum means, literally, "giant misshapen penis," my reaction wasn't so much, "poor thing," as it was, "oh, well, of course." Couple this with the fact that at some point she's going to start smelling like a two-month-old forgotten murder scene, logic would dictate that people would be giving this puppy a wide berth.

And yet, that's not what's happening.  Crowds have been forming daily just to catch a glimpse of her, and she hasn't even opened up yet.  For those who are not in Houston, thousands of people have been watching her progress on the live camera feed around the clock -- so much so, in fact, that the museum had to increase the bandwidth, then brought in experts from Rice University to increase the bandwidth again, and I'm told that the bandwidth is on the verge of being exceeded yet again -- and keep in mind, this flower hasn't done anything yet.  If Lois isn't a prime example of how much people love Different, particularly when they know that Different will be done well and with gusto, then really, I don't know what is.

The second thing I've been thinking about is actually related to the throngs of people who are obsessing along with me.  I've always felt like Houston is one of the most underestimated cities of the United States:  it's the fourth largest in the country (and some are speculating that the results of this year's census will likely catapult it over Chicago into third place), and yet Dallas (in a meagre 9th place) always seems to get higher billing in the media.  What has always struck me about Houston though, and what's surprising given the city's size, is how quickly the community rallies together -- and not just in times of need (as in the case of 2008's Hurricane Ike, when impromptu potluck dinners and extension cords to generators crisscrossed neighbourhoods all over town), but also in times of silly joy, like this.  It's entirely possible that people are just happy to focus on something other than wars and oil spills and political-parties-sniping-at-other-political-parties; but whatever, it doesn't matter:  the local news is ending on "Lois-Watch" stories, Houstonians are urging the flower to bloom on Twitter, and guests to the museum are waiving to each other on the live camera.  Even people outside of Houston are wishing Houstonians luck -- over a flower.  And while this is happening, it's almost easy to imagine that we live in a small town, where people like each other and look out for each other, and cheer each other on.  It's enough to make you really happy to live here.

Thirdly, I would be remiss if I didn't give huge, huge props to Zac the Horticulturalist and the entire Museum of Natural Science team.  They have been AH-MAY-ZING.  Not only have they been doing daily updates on their blog and Twitter streams, they have also -- get this -- stayed open twenty-four hours a day for a few days, so that the crowds can come see this once-in-a-lifetime plant at their leisure.  And even though the museum employees must be dead on their feet with fatigue (seriously, I'm not sure how Zac is still upright), they continue to do this with huge smiles, friendly explanations, and seriously great attitudes.  You guys are world class, and you make those of us who live in Houston proud.

And finally, a special shout-out to the astonishingly charming Erin, the Director of Online Media at the museum ...

... who has graciously offered to be my host each time I've stopped by (entirely on my own accord, by the way, and with very little prior notice to Erin).  She has answered my inane questions, and even gotten Zac's attention when my ridiculous questions bordered on the botanically criminal.  Even more wonderfully, she let me take a photograph of that lovely face of hers for my 1000 faces project.  She's a true gem.

And on that note, Happy Love Thursday, everyone.  I'm going to keep an eye on Lois, so that I can take a photo of her in full bloom; but in the meantime, may you look around at your community today -- your family, your neighbours, your work community or your town -- and feel happy.


Images:  Photographed with my Nikon D300 and my 24-85 mm lens.


Song1 in 10 by Cameron Rafati.  Cameron is an emerging artist and a new Twitter follower -- and on exploring his site, I loved his voice so much I thought I'd share. His new album drops August 14, 2010.