Thursday, 24 April 2008

The Butterfly Effect: Flowers, Bikes Thrown in Rivers and Google

There’s a counter on this blog which tells me how many people look at it and roughly where they come from and what track leads them here. (Can’t tell who you are though, so don’t worry about giving away the secret that you stop here occasionally.) About half the visitors are looking for the blog itself, but many others arrive through the most circuitous routes.

This morning my eye was caught by a Google search from somewhere in India which wanted links for “flowers thrown in river.” A most poetic idea, and one, I think, that is part of Hindu mourning rites. When I was in Kochi three years ago working on Green City, I stopped at flower vendors near temples to buy garlands for my rather bare hotel room. Long chains of marigolds and jasmine are apparently used in worship, although I must admit I didn’t investigate any further than to ask if it would be appropriate to buy ones for secular purposes. The vendor didn’t understand me, but an older woman who spoke excellent English saw what I was trying to do, and told me that it was perfectly all right. There ensued one of those delightful conversations that you sometimes encounter when travelling: where was I from? Did she live nearby? Children? Grandchildren? And have a lovely day!

I expect that the Google search was prompted by someone wanting to know more about customs, but of course I can’t be sure. What I do know is that the links the search turned up are a lateral thinker's joy. The first is from the Czech Republic: “Flowers thrown in Vltava to mark International Day of Roma.” Hundreds of daffodils were thrown into the river April 4 to mark the connection between the people we in North America usually call Gypsies and India, which is where it seems they migrated long ago.

The second link is completely different: “Bike thrown into river as vandals go on rampage,” a story datelined last week from a small town in the UK where crime cannot be that big a problem. The third is a link to a 1997 baseball story from Virginia: “ATHLETE OF THE WEEK: CODY FLOWERS: NANSEMOND RIVER PITCHER DRIVES BATTERS CRAZY AND STRIKES THEM OUT”

My post from yesterday comes in at the bottom of the first 10 links. Google picked up “Flowers” and "Thrown" from that post about Earth Day, plus “River” in a story from the February archives, “Time and the River Flowing.” I’d love to know what the person who spent a few minutes looking around on my blog thought both of it and of the chance that led him or her to it.

Currently I’m trying to get started on a new fiction project, which involves reflecting on the role that chance and its avatar, the Butterfly Effect, have on our lives. What kind of ripples does a tossed stone make in a pond? How far do the effects of flowers thrown in rivers travel?


Martin Langeland said...

Chance and Serendipity are always fascinating. As are people's reactions to their operation.
Once, while in the Navy, in Japan, I dragged my reluctant friend Jim to visit a Professor from our college who was on sabbatical in Tokyo. There we met two exchange students studying at International Christian University. One of them, Kath, had persuaded her friend Claudia to come.
Is that sufficient chance for you?
Jim and Claudia did goo-goo eyes and were married just as soon as Jim could convince Claudia's Dad that he wasn't "just a sailor". Later when I mentioned that it was a good chance I talked Jim into coming that day, he vehemently informed me that it was fate, not chance, that brought them together.

Mary Soderstrom said...

Great story, Martin.