Saturday, June 12, 2021

Cucurbits from an alien land

A real book, owned by my brother; not from a dream

Cucurbits are members of the family Cucurbitaceae, including gourds, melons, squash, pumpkins, cucumbers, etc. (This post has nothing to do with the book shown above; I just love the fact that it exists.)

Sinawava's watermelons

In a June 11 post, I mentioned a story Timothy Greenfield-Sanders told Whitley Strieber about encountering an alien on the road, and said it reminded me of an anecdote I heard (back in 1998) about a Ute Indian's encounter with the god Sinawava.

This anecdote from Greenfield-Sanders also reminds me now of a story I heard a long time ago about a Ute Indian's encounter on the road with a person he took to be Sinawava, a tribal deity known as "he who leaves footprints of light." I heard this secondhand from Stan Bronson of Blanding, Utah, a historian of the Ute tribe. (Bronson believed that Sinawava is the same person as Jesus Christ.) As I recall, Sinawava also asked the Ute which direction he was traveling and expressed approval of the answer. I think Sinawava was also carrying some watermelons, which he offered to the Ute -- recalling an incident in one of Strieber's books where alien "visitors" show up at Michael Talbot's door with a bag of pumpkins.

I have so far been unsuccessful in my attempts to track down Stan Bronson and verify the details of this story. 

Alien with squash

Squash, not pumpkins. I'd remembered the story wrong.

This is from Whitley Strieber's book Breakthrough (1995). Strieber is writing about an incident that occurred at his cabin in August 1991. He had invited a group of houseguests for the weekend, including the writer Michael Talbot (who would die less than a year later). Strieber wakes up at about five a.m., hears Talbot's voice, goes downstairs, and sees him at the door.

There was a shadow out there. I could see it clearly. It shocked me, because the likelihood of a stranger appearing at our door in this rather isolated area at five in the morning was vanishingly small. Then I saw that the figure was very thin, and seemed to have a huge head.

The idea that this was a visitor certainly hadn't crossed Michael's mind. . . . Then I heard him say, "are you trying to sell those vegetables?"

It stunned me practically senseless. Then I saw that the visitor was holding a big paper shopping bag full of squash.

When I realized that Michael thought he was dealing with a bag lady or a beggar, I became embarrassed, whereupon there followed the most hilarious moment in my whole experience with the visitors.

"Don't you realize that could be the creator of mankind," I hissed, wildly overstating the case in order to make him act more dignified.

Barely glancing at me, he muttered, "She's dead broke."

"She can't be dead broke," I said, "she owns the world!"

"I'd give you three dollars for the squash," he said through the door, "but I don't have my wallet."

Later that morning, Talbot reports the whole experience as a dream, but Strieber assures him that it really happened, explaining, "Somewhere along the line I got the impression that she personally conceived of the human race."

Descartes's dream

Kevin McCall alerted me to the fact that Descartes had dreamed about "melons from a foreign land." I quote from Alice Browne, "Descartes's Dreams," Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes Vol. 40 (1977), pp. 256-260.

On the night of 10-11 November 1619 Descartes, then aged twenty-three, had three dreams which he considered came from on high, and took the trouble to write down and interpret in some detail. Unfortunately his own account of them is not extant; but the account given by Baillet in his Vie de Mr. Des-Cartes, from which I shall be quoting, can be taken as fairly close to Descartes's own.

And here is Browne's translation of Baillet's account of Descartes's first dream:

After he fell asleep, his imagination was struck by the representation of some ghosts which appeared to him, and which terrified him so much that, thinking he was walking in the streets, he had to lean to his left-hand side to be able to reach the place where he wanted to go, because he felt a great weakness on his right-hand side, on account of which he could not hold himself up. Ashamed to be walking in this way, he made an effort to straighten himself; but he felt a violent wind which, carrying him off in a sort of whirlwind, made him spin three or four times on his left foot. Even this was not what terrified him. The difficulty he had in dragging himself along made him fear that he would fall at every step, until noticing a school open along his way, he went in to find a refuge, and a remedy for his trouble. He tried to reach the school Church, where his first thought was to go and pray; but, noticing that he had passed a man he knew without greeting him, he wanted to turn back to pay his respects to him, and was pushed violently by the wind, which was blowing against the Church. At the same time he saw in the middle of the school courtyard another person, who addressed him by name, in civil and obliging terms, and told him that if he wanted to go and see Monsieur N., he had something to give him. M. Descartes imagined that it was a melon which had been brought from some foreign country. But what surprised him more was seeing that those who gathered round him with this person to talk were upright and steady on their feet, although he was still bent and staggering on the same ground, and the wind, which had nearly overthrown him several times, was greatly diminished. He woke up . . . .

Gourd realm

I recently reread the Piers Anthony novel Night Mare. In the novel, the night mares -- who are actual mares, female horses, and are named after lava plains on the moon (Mare Imbrium, Mare Vaporum, etc.) -- live in the "gourd realm." This is the world of dreams, so called because there is a kind of gourd (the "hypnogourd") through which it can be accessed. Mortals who look into the peephole of a hypnogourd become trapped in the gourd realm, but night mares can move in and out of it freely.

Melon trees on the moon?

I seem to recall that some early modern figure said that he had looked at the moon with a telescope and seen life there, including trees that bore melons which were the primary food of the lunar inhabitants. These inhabitants may, if memory serves, have been something like bears. I can't remember who said this and haven't been able to find the account anywhere.

Ring a bell, anyone? Leave a comment.

UPDATE: I may have been thinking of a series of six articles published in the New York Sun in 1835, supposedly reporting the discoveries of John Herschel but actually written by Sun reporter Richard Locke. These articles are now known collectively as the Moon Hoax.

Dr. Herschel has classified not less than thirty-eight species of forest trees, and nearly twice this number of plants, found in this tract alone, which are widely different to those found in more equatorial latitudes. Of animals, he classified nine species of mammalia, and five of ovipara. Among the former is a small kind of rein-deer, the elk, the moose, the horned bear, and the biped beaver. The last resembles the beaver of the earth in every other respect than in its destitution of a tail, and its invariable habit of walking upon only two feet. It carries its young in its arms like a human being, and moves with an easy gliding motion. Its huts are constructed better and higher than those of many tribes of human savages, and from the appearance of smoke in nearly all of them, there is no doubt of its being acquainted with the use of fire. . . .

We here first noticed the lunar palm-tree, which differs from that of our tropical latitudes only in the peculiarity of very large crimson flowers, instead of the spadix protruded from the common calyx. We, however, perceived no fruit on any specimens we saw: a circumstance which we attempted to account for from the great (theoretical) extremes in the lunar climate. On a curious kind of tree-melon we nevertheless saw fruit in great abundance, and in every stage of inception and maturity (pp. 32-33).

Other cucurbits also put in an appearance.

Immediately on the outer border of the wood which surrounded, at the distance of half a mile, the eminence on which the first of these temples stood, we saw several detached assemblies of beings whom we instantly recognized to be of the same species as our winged friends of the Ruby Colosseum near the lake Langrenus. Having adjusted the instrument for a minute examination, we found that nearly all the individuals in these groups were of a larger stature than the former specimens, less dark in color, and in every respect an improved variety of the race. They were chiefly engaged in eating a large yellow fruit like a gourd, sections of which they divided with their fingers, and ate with rather uncouth voracity, throwing away the rind. A smaller red fruit, shaped like a cucumber, which we had often seen pendant from trees having a broad dark leaf, was also lying in heaps in the centre of several of the festive groups; but the only use they appeared to make of it was sucking its juice, after rolling it between the palms of their hands and nibbling off an end (p. 44-45).

These are the only fruits mentioned in the Moon Hoax article -- cucurbits all! 

And . . . the New York Times!

This article, published under the byline Joe Schmoe, inexplicably appeared on the NYT page on June 8, 2021. It was quickly taken down, with no explanation other than that it had been "published in error."

I found this today by complete chance, while searching Twitter for tweets about Dallin H. Oaks.

1 comment:

No Longer Reading said...

I had never heard of the Moon Hoax. The beaver people living in huts remind me of the Hrossa on Mars in C.S. Lewis's book Out of the Silent Planet.

They have a fight, Triangle wins, Triangle Man

A monster made of hundreds of tiny triangles