Thursday, August 13, 2009

Knowing Where To Find Out

My photo of the day today is "Quaker Bonnets."

When I snapped the picture, I had no idea what variety of flower I was seeing: forget-me-nots, maybe?

I discovered that the bright little blooms, "Houstonia caerulea," are commonly known as Quaker Bonnets, Nuns, Bluets, Little Innocents, Star Violets, or Bright Eyes. Native wildflowers, they prefer open meadows, where they are pollinated by butterflies. Some people successfully cultivate them in rock gardens.

In a journal entry dated May 5, 1860, Henry David Thoreau noted: "Bluets have spotted the fields for two or three days...They fill the air with a sweet and innocent fragrance..."

Andrew Wyeth called them "Quaker Ladies" in his delicate dry brush rendering.

In The Bluet, poet James Schuyler describes the fragile flower as "So small, a drop of sky that splashed and held..."

I located all of this information, and more, via an online search from the comfort of my own home. Had I cared to, I could have used my iPhone to track down facts right then and there, outdoors in a grassy field.

Our excellent local public library might have provided the wildflower identification that I initially sought, but the tangential learning, the interesting little sidelights, probably wouldn't have come to my attention if I had only used print resources for research.

I find that I increasingly use the physical library to browse for recreational reading material. When I need factual information, I turn to the "library without walls."

I want books and I want digital connectedness. The literate life requires both.

"Knowledge is knowing... or knowing where to find out." -Alvin Toffler


A Keeper's Jackpot said...

Good thing Ellen is going to make a book out of her wild flower Flickr set!

diane said...

You two find the most amazing wildflowers. If only a person didn't have to hike, climb, pedal or snowshoe to get there!

Diane Quirk said...

Such a great way to make a distinction between two very valid sources of information! The power of the hyperlink and search engines. Great post.

diane said...

Thank you, Diane!

The need for information hasn't changed - there are just more options for locating it.