Long ago, alchemists concerned themselves with refining base materials like lead into substances with higher spiritual value, like gold. I argue that alchemists still lurk among us and that the alchemists are the plants.1 Plants take air and water, combine them using energy from the sun, and make a substance holding energy that powers life... Continue Reading →
Water drop on lotus leaf I slip into a body of water--a tub, hot tub, creek, lake, or ocean--and the water supports me, buoys me, and makes intimate, surrounding contact. It releases my tension. But that's not the surface tension I'm talking about. The bathwater's contact isn’t too intimate, the way a bath in rubbing... Continue Reading →
You may know I’m a tree physiologist and that my research has been in how a plant gets water to go up the tree, but it wasn’t until I started making maple syrup that I started thinking about maple sap. The sap we collect comes out of the wood, and it has sugar in it.... Continue Reading →
How we make maple syrup from bigleaf maples in Oregon and why we even consider it, when it's a lot of work for the syrup we get!
One night on the way to visit my father, I heard about a crime that was allegedly committed by a twenty-year-old man. My first reaction was to be upset: it was none of our business how old he was, or even that it was a “he” and not a “she.” I remembered my reaction when... Continue Reading →
With our monitoring of first flowering date, we have a feeling of belonging to the world, rather than resistance to it; of concordance, rather than shock.
Last week I attended a symposium on Environmental Arts and Humanities. I listened with creeping discomfort as three speakers talked about “truth” as if it were subjective. One speaker talked about her research on photos, not what is in them, but what observers of the photos take away. These takeaways were the big feelings like... Continue Reading →
Some time last year, the plants around our cabin started grabbing atoms from the air and soil. They jammed them together, then used solar energy to stick them into molecules that were no longer gas or liquid, but were solid. For the rest of the growing season, the plants doled out those molecules to whatever... Continue Reading →
When I chose to study the ecology of western poison oak (Toxicodendron diversilobum, also known as Rhus diversiloba), I knew I would have to learn how to minimize the risk of “getting poison oak” and of causing other people to get it (11, 12, 13, 14). Here I describe the nature and seriousness of the... Continue Reading →
Chorus frogs are peeping, the trillium blooms have turned from white to purple, and leaves of all the deciduous plants are bursting forth in an orchestrated unfolding, filling, and spreading. And among the most beautiful displays is poison oak. Its buds open to crimson or red leaves that uncrinkle and spread. They stop at a... Continue Reading →
My son and his wife have been together for almost eight years. For the moment, and maybe forever, they have no human kids, but they do have five chinchillas. When their winter-break sitter fell through, they asked if I would step in. And I knew: it was time to get to know my grandchillas. They... Continue Reading →
This time of year, the natural beauty in our part of Oregon is in the textures of branches and barks, and the patchworks of greens showing through yellows and browns of fallen leaves. It’s in mists that rise and fogs that settle. It’s in sun that glows, white not yellow. And nothing botanical is gloriously... Continue Reading →
We’re back from vacation, and as I’d hoped, my dog and I are overjoyed to be together again. The salmon are spawning in the creek, the chestnuts are falling in the driveway, the jays are emptying them, and the dog is growling, pawing, and barking at their spiny casings. But the topic of this week’s... Continue Reading →
Out the plane window, Daria considered the resemblance of the wind-whipped ocean surface to a meadow in a breeze. In both cases, the waves and the troughs between them seemed tickled along by the wind. The mechanisms, however, were quite different, as she’d shown with a post-doc several years back. Just for starts, wind energy... Continue Reading →
“Some of them like it; some of them don’t.” That’s what a future landlord told me years ago on the phone while describing the firehouse he was renting. (It turned out it was a farmhouse; I hadn’t understood his New Hampshire accent. And I liked it.) We had a cold winter this year in the... Continue Reading →
On Friday my dad had to go to the clinic. I took him there. They said his blood pressure was low--really low, and I should get him an ambulance for the ride to the emergency room half a mile away. But I drove him instead. I parked, slammed my door, ran for a wheelchair, rotated... Continue Reading →