Tulips and Show Dogs

This one has my left and right brains in an uproar. Ol’ Lefty wants to take over and intellectualize the parallels between tulips and AKC dogs and Ol’Righty wants to jump into Pleistocene consciousness and graze.

The Botany of Desire by Michael Pollan  takes the Point of View that plants participate in their own domestication. In a mind like mine, it is only a jump to applying Pollan’s reasoning to the domestication of dogs. Which I will do after I digest it a bit.

The domestication of tulips was an obsession in the 16th century. The dutch were its masters. or perhaps it was when the tulip was master for long enough to get the Dutch to breed it into ever more exciting variations. Each new variety was a success financially and socially. The when the Dutch lost perspective and started paying $10’s of millions of dollars for a tulip bulb, they lost their reason to the tulips -which then produced a diseased variation that caused the tulip investment bubble to burst.

What tulips have in common with AKC dogs is extreme breeding for variety. Tulips were bred type to type and more and more variations began to emerge from the genome. It was probably unknowingly selecting for recessive type that weakened the tulips’ genetics to the point where a mold or fungus could even establish itself. When the tulip bubble burst, fortunes were lost and families destroyed, but the tulip went on in many of its varieties without the “tulip fever” as it was described, among the Dutch, after they came to their senses.

The AKC is just such a garden of tulips, but its closed stud books lead to the unveiling of ugly genetic problems beneath the surface.Being able to use and track genes from other breeds to strengthen the genetic stock is not allowed and such progeny are not tracked. It is up to the breeder alone, to sneak a gene into stock, then ghost track the offspring until you get back to the original type at which point, it is registered through a little hanky panky.

This system breeds sneakiness among breeders and encourages dog people to continue the fliberty-jibbet that passes as “breed” information.

Dogs that changed the world   An upcoming PBS Series………. I see Coppinger’s garbage dump theory is prominently displayed. Not that I argue with the idea that dogs follow humans or that dogs eat human refuse, but his dismissal of other methods of dog domestication prickles me hackles. And that is where ol Lefty has me pent up.

I have an imaginary world love to visit. I call it the Pleistocene. I discovered it as a teen at Verde Valley School (1956-57 school year) under the tutelage of Joseph Epes Brown. Actually, I had to write a paper on the evolution of man for an biology class, so that was my introduction at VVS, but these early men were part of our Humanities class taught by Joe. He was an extremely empathetic human being and his stories plunged you into mental pictures he created in the mundane and sacred spaces we shared. He often took us directly to the sacred as the people who taught him, saw it- both in our minds and in our field trips to meet native Americans on their own terms.

I have never stopped my interest in this era, which now includes the co-domestication of wolves and men with plants and other animals. My Pleistocene was rather foggily populated until the Imagination Jean Auel provided in Clan of the Cave Bear, gave it a form. A world full of plants and animals, weather, seasons, darkness, the return of the same skies in an orderly way. I think the plot of her book was a bit contrived and I have no idea if all that plant consciousness was stored in the back of her Neanderthalers’ brains, but the idea of giving shape to my Pleistoscenic imagination was fully implemented, with a whole lot of blanks, but something to build on. It is fun to roam the Ice ages with a puma at your side, but I doubt it happened much, if at all. Even to keep it there in your imagination, you must give it detail and its own consciousness. As with novels writing themselves according to some novelists, where the setting and characters begin to move with their own logic, and not supplied directly by the consciousness running the operation.

So that is where ol righty is coming from. I need more time to perk this stuff, but will soon return with an expanded version of this peg.

I think I must thank Joe Brown for permitting me to embrace the idea that all beings, all things, are in relationship to each other. That is a lovely abstraction, but it is also literally true. “In relationship” MEANS having relationships with. It is easy to imagine Pleisto-man in relationships with his family and clan, but the natural world and its beings, as well. For thousands of years before mono-culture allowed humans to domesticate themselves, women tended berry patches, which responded by supplying more berries. Trees respond to having their dead branches removed, so grooming the environment was part of exploiting it, long before people could achieve  the stability of resources that monoculture of grains provided.

Just think about it. People didn’t just add wheat to their diet, they tended grain crops in the wild, in natural fields. Rice too. They didn’t plant it then sit there and farm it. They tended as they went and to get a maximum of growth from the plants. They selected for the grains they used and probably patted many seeds into the ground in various ways as they gathered them.  Wheat prototypes were abundant in certain areas and people collected wild wheats when the grains were ripe. In fact, some probably had granaries-though small ones, maybe just unfired clay pots, before cultivating grains went big time. Certain areas of the world produced a lot of grains in their plains and people were quick to gather, use, eat and even save the seeds sometimes or at least notice the ones they covered up last fall are sprouting this spring. Grains were carbs and thus a valuable source of calories to the earliest peoples.

“Back when”  man and wolf were in a relationship with each other. ……..

2 Comments

Westin P.

Did you just say they had pottery?

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Caitlin Williams

I said, "Clay pots" this would be slabs of clay laid on stalks, either woven or unwoven, with a pile of grain on the slab and another slab of stalk-lined clay on top. Seal. It will keep as long as it doesn't get water soaked. If the adobe pocket is well made, the stalks will shed a lot of water and the grain will keep until needed.

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