These flowers are among those from which we can easily extract essential oils. These substances can then be used in products ranging from perfumes to scented soaps. If you love the smell of these flowers, you have all manner of ways to experience the scent. You can do so directly, by smelling the flower, or secondhand, as it were, through items made from their oils.
But some flowers don’t produce enough usable essential oils.
My favourite floral scent, lilac, is one of them.
Unfortunately for me, the aromatic compounds in lilacs are nearly impossible to acquire. Trying to extract the fragrance through steam distillation can end up destroying the scent profile. And the tiny amount of essential oils that may result are so expensive to produce that it’s not economically worthwhile to bother.
The end result is that you can’t buy true lilac essential oil. Perfumers may be able to mimic the scent of lilacs through synthesis, but the resulting fragrance hasn’t been distilled solely from the actual flower itself; it’s merely an approximation, a blend of other floral notes. No chemist can authentically capture the unique scent of the lilac.
If you want to experience the true fragrance of lilacs, there’s only one way to do it. You have to experience it “live,” by smelling an actual cluster of flowers.
Likewise, if we want to experience Jesus, it has to be “live.”
If you had to guess, what would you say is the most valuable thing in the world by weight?
If you’re a cook, you might pick costly foods like beluga caviar or white truffles. Or perhaps the spice saffron, which can go for thousands of dollars per pound.
If you’re a jewellery lover, your mind might go to precious metals like silver, gold or platinum. You’d know that gold has been revered since ancient times, and sometimes goes for thousands of dollars per ounce.
You’d be getting warmer if you worked in industry and knew that some substances used in things like catalytic converters are very costly indeed. Rhodium and palladium are even more valuable than gold.
These would all be good guesses, but not even close.
What about diamonds as the most valuable thing on earth by weight? Very rare coloured diamonds such as the red can be valued at millions of dollars per gram.
If you’re a scientist, you might get closer by guessing plutonium, used to fuel nuclear reactors. Or you might figure you’ve hit the jackpot by picking antimatter, which might power spaceships one day.
This substance requires inconceivable amounts of energy to generate. It’s estimated that antimatter costs tens of billions or even trillions of dollars per gram.
But there’s one thing on earth more valuable than even that…
A lot of animals would agree with that statement, if they could speak.
Many birds and animals have an uncanny “homing instinct” that allows them to travel thousands of miles to return to the very same location each year.
Monarch butterflies from eastern North America return to the same wintering grounds in central Mexico each year, even to the very same forest.
Sea-dwelling Pacific salmon return to the same river they were born in to spawn.
Pregnant sea turtles migrate thousands of miles across the ocean to lay their eggs on the same beach on which they were born decades earlier.
And then there are homing pigeons, the champions of long-distance way-finding. Their homing instincts are so reliable that they’ve been used in wartime to deliver crucial messages over enemy lines.
But how do they do it?
One theory suggests that homing pigeons may have a mineral called magnetite in their beaks, which acts as a tiny GPS unit. This would allow them to sense the earth’s magnetic fields and their own position in relation to it. If true, it would mean that these birds are essentially flying compasses, with their beaks pointing them in the direction they should go.
It makes me wonder: do humans have a “homing instinct”?
With 2020 behind us, it’s time to believe that good things are in store for us in 2021.
Are you having trouble believing that? Has your faith been a bit battered by the events of the past year? Do you find it difficult to believe that God has something good lined up for your future?
You’re not the only one to think certain things are simply impossible.
Have you read the book, “Alice in Wonderland,” by Lewis Carroll? At one point in the story, Alice is challenged by the White Queen to believe impossible things.
When the Queen says that she’s a hundred and one years old, Alice is incredulous.
“I can’t believe that,” said Alice.
“Can’t you?” the Queen said, in a pitying tone. “Try again; draw a long breath, and shut your eyes.”
“There is no use trying,” said Alice; “one can’t believe impossible things.”
“I dare say you haven’t had much practice,” said the Queen. “When I was your age, I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”
Even though this story is fictional, I think we as believers in God can learn a lesson from it. Sometimes God wants us to believe things that the world might consider to be “impossible.”
For generations, gardeners have been trying to achieve the impossible: to breed a truly blue rose or a perfectly black tulip.
These two flowers have so intrigued people’s imaginations that they’ve entered both lore and literature.
Blue roses are often used to symbolize mystery and a longing to attain the impossible. Some cultures even say that whoever holds a blue rose will have his or her wishes granted.
Black tulips were featured in an 1850 novel by Alexander Dumas called what else but “The Black Tulip.” This swashbuckling tale of love, murder and greed centres on the quest for a unique jet-black tulip.
The problem is that blue roses and black tulips don’t exist in nature. Roses lack the specific gene that allows for a “true blue” colour. It’s the same story with black tulips: optically black flowers are virtually unknown in nature.
Plant breeders have come close to achieving a blue rose through hybridization, but the “blue” is often closer to lilac or mauve. To produce a bluer flower, they’ve had to resort to dyeing or genetically modifying the plant.
As for tulips, the “black” ones are usually a deep eggplant or plum colour. They give the appearance of being extremely dark, but are not optically black.
Maybe this is a hint that we were never meant to find perfection in this world.
There’s nothing quite like the smell of freshly baked bread in your own home, is there?
More and more people are finding this out. One of the surprising consequences of the pandemic-associated lockdowns has been a resurgence of home baking. So many people have been baking bread at home in recent months that some stores have even run out of yeast and flour.
For beginners, it might take some time to get the knack of baking bread from scratch. Even for more experienced home bakers, baking the perfect loaf of bread will take numerous tries and repeated tweaks to the recipe.
The Bible has a few things to say about this life-giving substance. By tracing the story of bread through the Scriptures, we can see how the “recipe” improves over time, culminating in something we all desire: