A fellow vendor at the North Coast Nature Festival this past Saturday strolled up to my table to chat for a minute, and I showed him a matted 8x10 of "Over the Rainbow." I explained that the day this photo was taken, August 25th, happened to coincide with the 70th anniversary of the Wizard of Oz movie release. Sure looked like Munchkinland in the Land of Oz to me!
The vendor, an old hippie with a white beard and a long gray ponytail who sold metal lawn ornaments such as buzzards, sharks, and wine holders, laughed a loud geezerly laugh. "That's Jerusalem Artichoke!"
"Um, what's that? Is there any special meaning behind Jerusalem Artichoke?"
The vendor got a strange expression on his face like he didn't want to hurt my feelings. Seeing that my curiosity wasn't going to just go away, he almost blushed. "They're weeds."
As he walked away I thought to myself how amazing it was that the eye of an artist could transform what others saw as a weed into a magnificently wondrous flower from a realm existing over the rainbow.
Then it was time to close down for the night, to start all over again on Sunday morning. And here I was, needing to get to Mass. I had tracked down a church in a nearby city and went there Saturday evening. Posted on the bulletin board was a display featuring the Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit. One of the posters was marked "Awe and Wonder" and featured a picture of Niagrara Falls, ... complete with a rainbow. Another poster was marked "Courage" and featured, of all things, a picture of the Cowardly Lion receiving a medal. Looked like I had found the right church!
Sunday morning dawned bright and sunny, and I was walking to the Rocky River Nature Center for the second day of the art show sponsored by the Cleveland Metroparks. I first heard singing and then saw ... a happy little bluebird fly ... for real. So of course that got me thinking of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow."
The matted photo of Oz, since it had now become slightly embarrassing, was left to sit at the very bottom of the stack, hidden and out of sight. Until Sunday afternoon, when an art major sifted through each and every picture until she came face to face with Munchkinland in all its glory with the Jerusalem Artichoke in full bloom. I described to this kind and smiling lady about how the photo had been taken on the 70th anniversary of the Wizard of Oz, and she replied, "Yes, I see it. Isn't the eye of an artist amazing?"
After the show, I looked up "Jerusalem Artichoke" on Google. According to Wikipedia, it's a species of sunflower with an edible tuber that can be used as a root vegetable. It was also part of a pyramid scheme in the Midwest in the 1980's when speculators encouraged farmers to plant it, promising that this vegetable would soon become one of America's favorites.
What can I say? Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain ...