Peeling onions

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

Snowflakes in the bathroom mirror this morning as I sit on the pot. Happy equinox!

Later, in Via Negativa’s spam comment folder, I find line after line of question marks. My finger hovers over the delete button. Am I sure these were merely characters in an exotic font my desktop can’t display? What if someone really meant to question me this thoroughly? Or maybe it represents some poor, lonely soul’s existential crisis.

One spam comment I can read is only slightly less cryptic:

Onion booty. Big booty. Latina booty. Doctor booty good. Big black booty. Yoga booty ballet…

I suppose the ellipsis is meant to suggest that the booty-related possibilites are endless, but I’m frankly not sure how you would top yoga booty ballet.

And I’m agog at the idea of onion booty. Almost everything I cook has onions in it; a sharp-nosed friend of mine tells me I always smell faintly of onions. I like the way they relax and turn translucent, then slowly caramelize into brown sugar, or stay crisp and shapely in a stir-fry. But when I google “onion booty,” it turns out to be the name of a thoroughly unpoetic porn site, featuring “asses so beautiful they make you cry” being defiled in a variety of ways that one may or may not find unspeakable, depending on one’s tolerance for such things, but which are at any rate quite predictable. No layers of mystery here. Nothing like an onion.

The question marks that once were letters also probably said something utterly mundane. I’m reminded of my brother’s work with the Indus Valley script, which has so far defied all efforts at decipherment. One self-styled expert with a Harvard connection has been advancing the theory that they aren’t glyphs at all, but mystic symbols of some sort. People used to think that about the Egyptian and Mayan writing systems, too. It’s so easy to assume that anything that’s cryptic must be profound. But Steve is beginning to suspect that most of the surviving Indus Valley inscriptions actually record commercial transactions — that’s why they’re so brief and repetitive. If this is true, the language may never be deciphered.

The snow didn’t amount to anything here, but farther east, I gather, some folks got an onion snow. It’s onion-planting time for sure. The snowflakes sit briefly on the thawed earth as if they were seeds, encoded with full libraries of DNA. Then they melt, and turn into ordinary water — the currency of the planet. And a week later, all along the edge of the woods, the tall green glyphs of wild onions.