#9 Latitude Gardens
That night, Corey fell asleep wishing he could tell Gaspard what he had learned in New Zealand. He wondered if GGC-1835 had a southern hemisphere…
“Of course I have a southern hemisphere!” said Gaspard.
They were walking along with a bright patch of buttercups to their left, a most unusual planting in what Corey concluded must be the most unusual garden ever planted. It was only a few rows wide, but it stretched away to the horizon both north and south as far as he could see. It wasn’t all buttercups, of course. And it wasn’t all level, either, for soon they were walking up a steep hill towards a patch of merry forsythia in golden bloom. The forsythia was a massive bush, and more of the golden shrubbery was spaced 25 yards to the left and right, crosswise to the garden. Gaspard called it the Summer Circle, “Yes, yes of course! It goes all round the asteroid.”
Corey thought he must have seen one of these bushes from the top of the pine tree. Gaspard agreed: “it’s about 30 degrees north of the equator.”
Past the forsythia, they found anise, carrots, daisies, bush beans, and then they were looking down along some ferns and asters into a little valley with cattails and a willow at the bottom and several more herbs and flowers and some kind of fruit tree up on the farther hillside.
“Peaches,” said Gaspard, “and ripe enough, but too high to reach. I suppose you might drop me one – just knock the branch of course, so we don’t have peach soup.”
It was not hard to drop several. Corey missed the first shot, being uncertain of how much turning to expect, but in the slow motion of the flight, and in the disturbance of the leaves, he knew exactly where his arrow went – six inches to the right — and he was on target after that.
They crossed the valley and ate their peaches which had hardly bruised in the thick grass below the tree. Then Gaspard said he wanted to walk south and let Corey see how the arrows changed their flight curve with latitude.
It turned out that the plantings were Gaspard’s latitude garden, and each bed marked a change of 1º of latitude, “so I know where I am,” he said, “but the arrow’s flight doesn’t change the same amount with each latitude,” he added.
“I know,” answered Corey. “I figured it out once and then Pete had an equation. But I don’t know how much it changes.”
Gaspard smiled. “Pete,” was all he said, shaking his head.
They faced south and Corey shot his arrows one by one at the start of each planting: towards the beans, towards the daisies, towards the carrots and then the anise, even towards a spray of forsythia hanging outside the line of the garden.
By the time he ran out of arrows, they were retrieving them as they walked, and he could see how they were closer and closer to his visual mark. When a bright patch of sunflowers came in sight, Gaspard proposed one more shot and then a picnic at the equator, for indeed the sunflowers marked the center latitude on GGC-1835.
Corey agreed; he was hungry again, and he remembered Gaspard’s French bread and butter. They passed some white peonies, broad leaved comfrey, golden daylilies, deeply fringed parsley, and several other plantings before they reached the equator and sat in the shade of the sunflowers. The north equatorial section was taller with pale yellow flowers while the south equatorial planting was a crowd of shorter sunflowers with flaming red centers. A narrow path of white stones passed between them and beyond, apparently wrapping itself around the whole asteroid. Corey’s arrow to the equator was off his sights by less than half an inch.
He ate contentedly for a few minutes and then gave a quick little sigh of frustration. “Isn’t there anywhere that you just shoot where it looks right and the arrow goes there?”
“Hmmm,” said Gaspard. “Good question!” He was buttering his last crust very carefully and looking sideways at Corey, a twinkle in his eye.
“I mean, a kind of Isabela Island,” continued Corey. “It made me like to use my eyes! But here we are at the equator and I’m still off a little. Not very much, but…”
“Hmmm,” said Gaspard again, nodding his head with a slight frown betrayed by his twinking eyes.
Corey sat very still. Into his mind flew the image of Dad with the verse about turning left in the south…
Suddenly, he jumped up, grabbed his bow, and ran south along the latitude garden. As he ran, he noticed that the plantings were the almost the same as those in the northern gardens, only warmer and richer colors. He passed golden clover, fragrant cilantro, red Hibiscus, a borage bed full of bees, and more until he came to the red peonies.
When he reached these, he turned around to aim away to the north at a drooping white peony that hung to the side of its plot. Gaspard had moved well away from the garden and was smiling broadly.
“I wonder will my arrow turn left, then right?” wondered Corey. “No, that’s silly. The arrow goes straight but it might seem to be going left into the garden at first, and then right back out to my target. I wonder…” He aimed precisely where his eye told him, pulled his bow and let the arrow fly. It made a beautiful arc just slightly towards tallest sunflower, and then straightened itself back out to cut the white peony cleanly from its stem.
Gaspard went to pick up the arrow — and the peony — and turned to meet the young bowman as he came running up. Corey was so happy he was almost crying.
“I did it; I did it!” he called.
When he had caught his breath, he had to settle one question.
“So then the arrows went straight by the Wolf Volcano because I was shooting across the equator?” he asked eagerly.
“You may have been shooting across the equator,” said Gaspard. “Certainly Isabela Island sits at your equator, and Wolf Volcan is precisely upon it. But more importantly, your world is bigger than mine and your arrows move faster there. The sine anywhere near the equator is very small, and you could not have measured the curve whether you were precisely on the equator or just nearby.”
Corey gave a sigh of contentment.
“Hey,” he said shyly, rubbing his toe in the grass. “Do you have an apple tree?”
But Gaspard did not answer. When Corey looked up, he was in Wellington, and his arrows were beside him, smelling slightly of peaches. The sun was rising, and a large vase of red and white peonies stood on the windowsill. He did not remember seeing them before.
(To be continued…)
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