Writing my way through the A-to-Z blogging challenge, I’ve tasked myself with throwing open the cabinet of curiosities and wondrous things I call my brain and leading you on a tour of what actually resides in there – all through the lens of unusual, obscure, or simply charming-to-me words.
U is for…
umbraculiform – 1. shaped like an umbrella; 2. (botany) having the form of anything that serves to shade, such as a treetop or especially an umbrella
It takes a while for April’s showers to bring May’s flowers, but in the meantime that gives us plenty of time to talk about umbrellas.
Ancient art and artifacts prove that the umbrella was in existence more than 4000 years ago, and had its place in the cultures of Egypt, China and Greece. These first iterations were designed to provide shade as well as indicate status and reserved solely for royalty. It was the Chinese who first waterproofed their umbrellas for protection against rain – starting with a leather umbrella in 11th century BC. Later the Chinese waxed and lacquered their paper parsols making them more suitable for rain.
Discussing umbraculiform doesn’t limit us to actual weather-protection devices, and let’s segue into a more expansive definition via a dream I had a while ago.
I was in a street full of people carrying umbrellas. It wasn’t actually raining though – in fact the sky was filled with double rainbows in jaw-dropping gorgeous colors more suited to a box of surreal crayons. And just as I was adjusting to the delights of these visions, I noticed that in fact people weren’t actually carrying umbrellas, they were carrying giant flowers that were somewhat shaped like umbrellas. It was gasping-in-delight amazing. I so wanted a giant flower to carry around as well. But even as I was thinking about how cool that would be, the scene morphed once again and instead of people carrying flowers like umbrellas, the people’s heads had turned into giant ball-like flowers (think Alliums) and their necks were long stems. It was hilarious and delightful at the same time. Gives a whole new definition to flower child.
Having turned in the direction of botany, what’s more umbrella-shaped than some mushrooms, specifically those most commonly known as toadstools? While it’s fun imaging (or seeing if you’re lucky) an entire fairy ring, a single specimen is
I have a penchant for vintage postcards with fabulous graphics. Isn’t this toad-stool-sitting gnome playing an accordian an absolute delight?
Just to round things out with a bit of trivia, letting you see just exactly what manner of wonders my brain contains… Did you know umbrella-menders were nicknamed mushroom-fakers in nineteenth century slang? Doesn’t that make you smile?
Before shaking off the rain-drenched umbrellas and putting them away, there’s one more thing I think is worthy of our consideration – these words attributed to Walter Groupius:
“The mind is like an umbrella. It’s most useful when open.”
So what do you think? More in need of an umbrella or parasol today? Ever see a gnome? Like mushrooms? Do tell – you know I love to hear.
What fun! I once made a miniature doll-house-sized umbrella out of actual umbrella fabric and wire. It came out pretty clunky, but I really enjoyed working out how the little joints would be able to open and close. Even the paper parasols from fancy drinks have a rather clever paper mechanism. Plus they’re so pretty that I always save them. (Luckily I almost never get fancy drinks, so the paper umbrellas remain rare and special.)
Black and White: U is for Umbrellaphant
Oh how fun Anne – my mind boggles at the idea of making a tiny umbrella.
I love those little paper umbrellas as well. A friend bought a ton of them for a party once and gave me the remaining ones. I hung bunches of them off a garland I strung across my studio. Made me smile for a very long time.
I love the quote about the mind being like an umbrella, but conversely, I don’t use umbrellas. I find them to be a nuisance and would rather just have a hood and walk fast. The gnome on the toadstool is precious.
I’m not surprised you liked the gnome Janet. You’ve got some in your yard don’t you? And I’m also guessing being a California woman you don’t really have a whole lot of need for umbrellas. But maybe a parasol…
A very unusual word indeed Deborah and such an interesting history! Your dream is so full of colour –
A few weeks back a couple of mushrooms were growing in our Plettenberg Bay garden on the lawn. I would check them out every day and they were growing very large. I wanted to see how big they would grow but my husband cut them down and disposed of them. I wish I’d taken a photo and attempted to have them identified .. they were quite gorgeous on the inside.
I’ve never owned an umbrella – I like to take my chances. I’ve seen some really pretty and unusual ones on sale, and I’ve been tempted ..
Your mystery mushrooms sound lovely – I’m sorry you didn’t get a chance to identify them.
I’m smiling with delight at the fact you’ve never owned an umbrella. That seems like such a foreign concept to me, although really these days I much prefer wearing a hooded slicker than carry an umbrella. But I actually like using an umbrella when it’s windy and there’s a chance of the wind catching it – I’m always hopeful I’ll get carried away. 🙂
Hmmm. I walked yesterday with a friend who carried an umbrella as insurance so it wouldn’t rain — it worked!
Funny how often that works. 🙂
Your post reminded me of this poem I used in my EC classroom sometimes–it’s by Oliver Herford:
“Under a toadstool crept a wee Elf,
Out of the rain to shelter himself.
Under the toadstool, sound asleep,
Sat a big Dormouse all in a heap.
Trembled the wee Elf, frightened and yet
Fearing to fly away lest he get wet.
To the next shelter—maybe a mile!
Sudden the wee Elf smiled a wee smile.
Tugged till the toadstool toppled in two.
Holding it over him, gaily he flew.
Soon he was safe home, dry as could be.
Soon woke the Dormouse—”Good gracious me!
“Where is my toadstool?” loud he lamented.
—And that’s how umbrellas first were invented.”
Awesome dream, by the way!
LOL – love that Susan! And so now we know the truth of the matter.
The mind is like an umbrella
Love it! 🙂
And yes, I also want a giant umbrella flower 🙂
The Multicolored Diary
That makes me smile as well!
Vivid and lovely dream Deborah! Your dreams are so full of color.
It rains a lot here in India (monsoon being one of the main seasons). Therefore every house has an umbrella. I have bought many and lost many as well…lol…Even I have possessed various colorful raincoats because when it is windy while raining sheer umbrella is not enough to protect you from getting wet. I also use an Umbrella for protection from the scorching sun.
I like the quote at the end.
I understand about umbrellas getting lost Kislaya. I’ve come to think of them as guests – they stay a while and they move on to another house. 🙂
Umbrellas – I rarely open mine, but carry them with me to places with rain. Mind – I leave the latch loose, can’t take a chance on closing – you never know what interesting stuff might get blown in 🙂
LOL – and how perfect is that? May fabulous interesting things always blow in!