The older I get, the more amazed I get when I really think about all the stuff I used to take for granted. Things like the fact that lots of people fly some distant place every minute inairplanes and they canactually can get all that aluminum, fuel and peopleoff the groundand across a vast expanse ofland in a fraction of the time it would take to drive a car that distance, say nothing about walking behind a covered wagon and some mules. ( I try to remind myself of this whenever one ofour flights is delayed at the terminal.) It is really prettyamazing. How about cell phones? Twenty five years ago they came in a seven poundbag with a battery the size of your head. Now they come with an app that can show me in realtimea radar image of athunderstorm perched over Chris Hemingway’s farm in Charlestown and give me an idea how long it will be before we get clobbered by it down at Putnams. Technology surely has done some amazing things.
What I am discovering-or should I say “awakening to” are the amazing things that happen under foot. Things that I take for granted in the natural as well as material world. I always loved the seasonal changes. But birds migrate thousands of miles seasonally. And they basically end up in the same places each year. Mammals in the sea, like whales and dolphins, have ways of communicating to one another and have social structures. Thathoney bees will come back to the same source of pollen and nectar time and time again while commuting back and forthto the hive, which can be as much asthree miles away.
Really? How do they do that?
How about rooting plants from a vegetative cutting? Yeah, I know all about providing humidity, proper lighting and heat…..but think about all the complex chemistry and biology that just kicks into gear when you sever a cutting from a plant andplunge it rootless into the soil. Sometimes, when you get it right, you have a rooted cutting in 7 days. Of course, when I don’t get it right, I can also end up with a pile of soggy, fungus ridden ,slimy schwag….but the potentialis stillamazing. The plant does that, on its own. We didn’t genetically modify that organism to do it, it occurs naturally. The concept of a seedinitself is pretty mind blowing. All that genetic potential-again we didn’t have anything to do with it- …seeds have been aroundfor…..well, you can fill in the blank) All the genetic potential thata plant is endowed with to grow, adapt ,reproduce is stored in that little seed. That seed can hang around a long time ,too. Lambsquarter , a broadleafweed around here and member of the spinach family chenopodium , can hang out in the soil for up to 40 years before it loses it viability to germinate. Thenone, day some farmers plow or harrows bring it upclose enough to the surface, it gets a little rain, couple of sunny days and Voila! Instant lambsquarter. It’s pretty amazingthatit can last in a hostile environment. Whenever I encounter a hostile environmentI usually don’t try to spend any time there at all, muchlesstime measured in years.
I have also marvel at things”underfoot”. Why does the damn cat stay off the bed at night (thank you, Kevin) but then decide when its morning and then pounce up on the bed by your head and start rubbingits head on my ear or nose(damnit, Kevin!) in an effort to get you up to let her out? We didn’t teach her to train us. She is one smart little cat (and yes, her name is Kevin) We have a small flotilla of 60-70 year old tractors that we use periodically. Amazingly these things still start up. Simple machines that you can still get to work, and still source parts over the internet with a little investigation. They are amazing in that they are not part of the planned obsolescence that isbuilt into most of todays products. I attached a picture of a tree behind the greenhouses. There was a largelimb that hangs out at such an angle I was moved to cut it off before it broke off. When I went to cut it, I realized that it was getting support from an upper limb thatactually grew out and intothe lower limb, giving it extra structural support by becoming part of and growing into the lower limb. Sort of likea brace or collar tie. But the tree did it on its own. It was here 20 years beforeI realized what was going on. Now that is cool, andI hope the picturedoes itjustice. Ifit doesn’t, well, take a look atit next time you are downat the greenhouses,
Take home message for me is that it confirms in my mind that humans are pretty intelligent, but maybe not as intelligent as we think we are. We like to think we are smarter than the plants, insects and animals…but there is some things going on in my world that indicate otherwise.
Kevin just came in the room and started clawing furniture. She knows we hate it. She also knows that we will get up and let her out. Guess what I am doing next…