Busting Out

Our Best of NH Party happens June 14 and you should attend. If not for yourself, then for the good of the Granite State and, in evolutionary terms, for the good of humanity. Allow me to explain.

Editor Rick Broussard

Photo by John Hession

June is bustin’ out all over,” sings Renée Fleming as Nettie Fowler in the newly revived “Carousel” (my favorite classic Broadway play). It’s a song about the reckless fecundity of nature in its summer primetime. In New Hampshire, the beginning of summer is really just late spring, but here’s a question appropriate to either season: Ever wonder why flowers are beautiful?

Probably not, but this is the kind of puzzle that fascinates evolutionary biologists. They explain that the flower and the pollinating insects (we’ll just say “bees”) that are attracted to them have coevolved over the eons and the “beauty” we see is, for all practical purposes, a coincidence. Flowers look lovely, but we are not the objects of their attraction — the bees are. Still, we see the beauty as well, so there must be some larger pattern at work.

Plants produce flowers with the right appeal so the bees will visit them, sip some nectar, collect a little pollen, and then spread the plant’s DNA around. Human beings have their own system of reproduction that is uniquely mammalian and not quite as elegant, but that works just fine. Meanwhile, the human culture that sustains, enlightens and entertains us, believe it or not, has its own reproductive system. It happens to resemble that of a blooming plant.

The “DNA” of our culture is spread not through genes but through “memes” — ideas that are viral in nature and able to replicate themselves. When you visit a friend’s home and admire their landscaping or kitchen design, you make mental notes about how you’d like your own home to look. If you incorporate some of those ideas into your own improvements, then beauty and elegance have been transferred from one family to another. The meme has spread, taking with it a new style and efficiency, and rewarding the “bee” (you) with the chance to improve your life, impress your friends and spread the meme even further. That’s the home design industry in a nutshell. Fashion has a similar life cycle, and fashion centers of the world are like the blossoms of that organism. Travel to Paris and you will bring home some Parisian fashion pollen that might eventually change the way people look in, say Bedford, or Orford, New Hampshire.

Using this analogy, all great civic and community events can be seen as the flowering of the forces of creativity and enterprise. When you go to a great festival like The Thing in the Spring in Peterborough or Art Jam Bridge Fest in Manchester, you are immersed in the pollen collection of dozens of busy cultural bees. Each musical band, food booth, art display and table of merch is waiting to leave its dust upon browsers. The concentration of them all in one place at a specific point in time is like a big, colorful, fragrant flower, evolved over millennia just to lure people like you and me.

Much like plants, the societies, communities, countries and states that produce a lot of blossoms are the ones that will succeed and spread their influence. However, unlike bees, who wouldn’t think of spending a bright summer day in the hive, some human beings have to be encouraged to get out and perform their part in this great dance of fertility and commerce.

At the Best of NH Party, one thing will be certain — New Hampshire food, drink, music and fun will be bustin’ out all over. So don’t miss this chance to sip a little nectar and collect a little pollen while enjoying the best the state has to offer in full bloom.

You might even want to invite a few friends.  And if they ask why, forget everything I just said and sing out loud, “Because it’s June — June, June, June! Just because it’s June, June, June!”

More edit notes from editor Rick Broussard

My Daniel Webster(s)

Shakespeare wrote, “What’s past is prologue.” The past is also what we take for granted. Maybe that’s why history is often so unexplored and overlooked, even when it’s your own family history.

Magical Thinking

My first encounter with a “health food store” was back in the 1960s. They sold a mysterious, chewy cereal called “granola” and made cups of dark yerba mate tea that smelled like a mystical potion.

Viva Manchester

One of my first workplaces in New Hampshire was a third-floor office on the corner of Elm and Amherst Streets in Manchester. It was 1990 and, yes, imaginary tumbleweeds did roll down Elm Street.

Poetry in Motion

The Poetry Society of NH is seeking a new poet laureate for the state. While it’s possible you don’t know the name of the current one, this might be the most important nonpolitical office we have.
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