Pomegranate blossoms

Delightful Not Frightful Flora and Fauna Despite Human Phobias

I took photos of spring blossoms in my backyard this week, thrilled by the fabulous flora bounty including cactus, lime, and lemon blossoms, plus the bright red pods that bloom into blossoms to become tasty pomegranates seen in the photo accompanying this blog post.

It turns out it was the perfect endeavor to galvanize me into drafting final chapters of Aliens Watch, seventh novel in my Other Worldly series, which involves protagonist Rowan Layne and her pals visiting the planet Saturn, known as Cultura. Because to those of extraterrestrial origins, it’s lauded for its agricultural bounty (including wine and botanical gin).

Flora in the form of Earth’s pomegranate blossom looks harmless enough despite an odd pod-like appendage, not to mention the rather unusual appearance of its tasty interior fruit bounty, yet I wondered if this lovely bright red flower would look so benevolent if it appeared as the size of a sports car. Like something straight out of a Hollywood horror movie.

Or perhaps it’s the fauna that pollinates blossoms or consumes fruit, if grossly enlarged and perhaps bizarrely hued, who might cause humans to be threatened and fearful by what they don’t understand or recognize.

The very subject I address over several chapters, including how humans on Earth view both bats and opossums in an unnecessarily negative light, finding them frightening, threatening, or ugly and therefore unworthy of existence despite both mammals being harmless to humans and beneficial to ecosystems, including their studious and vital pollination of blossoms.

Without bats, we wouldn’t have mangoes, avocadoes or bananas. No cacao for chocolate or agave for tequila. Without opossums, we’d have 5,000 more harmful ticks each season spreading Lyme disease and preying upon us and our beloved dogs.

Hence, I had some fun with the bat and opossum in imagining their existence on Saturn/Cultura, including extreme variations in size—and appetites. Drawing upon what I found fascinating about flamingoes, I also took poetic license with their color and luminescence. Because flamingoes aren’t born with bright pink feathers. They derive their vibrant hue from carotenoids, which are red, yellow, and orange pigments found in algae and crustaceans flamingoes consume and metabolize. Kind of like Cultura’s ginormous berry-loving opossum…

As usual in researching various subjects for Aliens Watch, I found serendipitous connections to previous novel themes. For instance, hummingbirds play a semi-starring role from the very beginning of Rowan Layne’s journey with aliens in Alienable Rights. And while researching bats, which just happen to have extrasensory auditory abilities like Rowan, I came upon what is known as the lesser long-nosed bat.

The lesser long-nosed bat can hover at blossoms like hummingbirds do to feed on nectar, using its three-inch-long tongue, equal to its body length. On Saturn/Cultura this bat will be known as a hover bat. Another larger bat will, like the flamingo, take on a bright and unexpected hue from consumption of its favorite fruit—also one of Rowan’s tropical favorites.

Given that Aliens Watch includes recurring Other Worldly themes of environmental conservation and the folly of humans declaring themselves superior to all other living things including animals (and alien animals), and also touches upon the importance of living in the present and not projecting yourself too far into what the future might hold, the message for this novel is one I find particularly profound:

The natural world has much to teach us about ourselves and the machinations of the universe. Flora and fauna live in the moment, content to address the circumstances they face in the present. Unafraid of what the future may bring. In animal life, there exists the capacity for ferocity as well as tenderness, and from our animal brethren—because we are all animals of varying species—we learn there is a time and place for both.

For now, I must emulate hummingbirds flitting with positive purpose outside my window, pollinating my pomegranate and citrus blossoms, and get busy drafting the dramatic finale of Aliens Watch.

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