Plants and People – “Lab Girl”

I read “Lab Girl” by Hope Jahren, a geochemist and geobiologist, because I was curious what she would say about plants. In her book’s three sections, titled in a way that applies to both plants and people, “Roots and Leaves, “Woods and Knots,” and “Flowers and Fruit,” Jahren alternates descriptions of plant biology with tales of her life.

She writes about her relationship with her parents, her education and career (using stable isotope measurements to analyze fossil forests), Bill (her singular lab partner), a professional life with male scientists, and eventually, a happy love story with her husband Clint.

As I read, absorbed mostly in Jahren’s personal chronicle, I remembered my mother who always declared people more interesting than plants. But the next day I awoke and looking at the trees out my window, thought about how long trees have been here (400 million years), and how we endanger them (50 billion cut down in the last 10 years), and about recent scientific inquiry exploring how trees communicate and recognize their relatives (!).

Jahren wrote this book before our government took a bad turn, but even so she says, “My job is about making sure there will be some evidence that someone cared about the great tragedy that unfolded during our age.” Now that we live in a mess, “guided” by the anti-science “leadership” of our country with non-defense-related research funding flatlined and “curiosity-driven research” (what a wonderful concept) threatened, it’s both grand and sad to read this so accessible book about science.

An engaging writer and a driven scientist, Jahren writes, “Science has taught me that everything is more complicated than we first assume, and that being able to derive happiness from discovery is a recipe for a beautiful life. It has also convinced me that carefully writing everything down is the only real defense we have against forgetting something important that once was and is no more, including the spruce tree that should have outlived me but did not.”

In the epilogue, she encourages us to plant a tree this year if we own property or even if a renter with a yard. “Every day, you can look at your tree, watch what it does, and try to see the world from its perspective.”

“Lab Girl” makes one better at that worthy attempt.

 

 

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Sweet Baby Turns Two

If you ask Sweet Baby how old she is now, she’s quick to answer – “TWO!”

She’s quick to answer about many things these days – using her vast vocabulary of English and Thai words – and some phrases that are a combination of both. She requests a hug in either language and gives great ones in return. With reliable consistency and genuine pleasure she delivers pleases and thank yous. They are always attached to a name (“tink you Shes-tar”).

She and her mom have a really good time – they chatter in Thai, sing together, laugh together. Her dad and I might get breakfast ready, but Sweet Baby enjoys it best when her mom arrives. Sweet Baby eats most everything – she loves fruit of all kinds, avocados (‘cados), rice, oatmeal with peanut butter, and the cream cheese off a bagel.

Sweet Baby deftly employs third person verbs with her name – declaring Sweet Baby going walking, going sleeping, going hiking. And she identifies our activities and belongings – daddy working, Granna Katy’s sweater, Poppa Jim’s hat, daddy’s hat, sunglasses, shoes, phone – on and on. She points to her hair clip (“kee-ip”) and mine. Sweet Baby’s hat is a hot pink ball cap worn with her ponytail through the back.

She’s thin and very strong. (Baby Brother weighs almost as much!) She runs and hikes on those little legs at a great clip – fast, coordinated, and determined. She samples the coming pleasures of snowboarding and swimming with style and concentration.

She’s remarkable with names and faces – repetition might help – after being introduced, she’s apt to repeat “Hi Justin!” (or whomever) multiple times. On her January trip to Thailand, she remembered names of relatives she has met only once. She has an endearing habit of pointing to something that puzzles her, person or thing, and, putting forefinger to chin, inquiring: “it’s ummmm…?”

She shrieked in delight at the sight of her cousins on a recent time together. She patted Baby Brother with affectionate intensity, and was a classic two-year old taking toys when playing with Lady Baby (so grown up at five, amazingly patient and kind with her little cousin).

Sweet Baby’s learned a lot about birthday celebrations – two so far (oatmeal yogurt cake first, fruit tart second). Another evening of candles and treat is in the offing when her Thai granny arrives this week.

Happy Birthday Sweet Baby!

 

 

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Ubiquitous Flowers

That’s what a reader called daffodils when I posted them on Valentine’s Day. She’s right, especially the sturdy yellow ones (the color of dandelions, not everyone loves them), and especially on Bainbridge Island where the commenter lives. There, plantings have naturalized along roadsides and at intersections all over the island. These daffodils, bunched buds from the grocery store, opened on my drawing table. Daffodils begin to bloom in the garden –  welcome in their ubiquity.

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Flowers From The Garden – Hellebore

Hellebore – the Lenten rose, Christmas rose – even braver than snowdrops, hellebore bloom here in January, bowing their blossoms for protection from inclement weather. My plants are 10 years old now, big leathery leaves get cut back each fall, so the blossoms appear as a surprise in the depth of winter. I read a long time ago, that helleboe lift their heads and endure indoors if you carefully slit the stem vertically in several spots.

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Flowers From The Garden – Snowdrops

Planting snowdrops requires catching the bulbs “in the green,” and dividing the parent clump. Now patches of them appear in many garden beds here, and maybe someday they will form drifts like you see in old English and Northwest gardens. Undaunted by winter’s freezing rain and temperatures, when I brought them inside to paint I realized they have a small, sweet fragrance.

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Thank You Flowers

What you take when you ask friends if you could come to their house to watch the Academy Awards (because their television actually is a television), and they make a beautiful dinner served at a table moved near the television. We laughed and cheered and loved the startling, happy ending to this year’s show!a-little-spring

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Flowers For The First

It’s good to read the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution – and remember what does truly make American great:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

And, just for the record, the press is not our enemy. I am grateful to truth-seeking journalists, editors and publishers.

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