Tag Archive 'life forms'

Aug 09 2021

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Incredible Nature

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Both Judy and I have delved deep into nature this summer.

Judy has gotten into macro photography. Using a special lens, she creates photos of small subjects that are larger than life, enabling us to see them in a different way. Sometimes she takes photos of insects or other tiny creatures, but her main interest is flowers. The inner workings of some flowers are surreal. Sometimes they are downright cosmic. It’s amazing what her photos reveal when she gets up close and personal.

Meanwhile, I have been studying natural history, reaching way back in time to the emergence of life forms on this planet. It’s a long journey from single-celled organisms in an oxygen-starved world to multicellular plants and animals populating the ocean five hundred million years ago, then to the appearance of insects, amphibians and reptiles, then to flowering plants, mammals and eventually us. While millions of life forms have come and gone, many of the most primitive ones, such as fungus and algae, are still with us. Some species of algae are over a billion years old. Some species of bacteria are much older. It boggles the mind.

The other day, while I was cleaning out the birdbath in our back yard, I hosed green slime off the rocks that sit in its water. That’s algae, that only hints at the kind of primordial slime that once covered the earth. While I was going about this task, songbirds flitted from feeder to feeder, squirrels scurried about, insects crept through the grass underfoot, and trees swayed around me in a gentle summer breeze. Wild and domestic flowers of various designs bloom in our yard. So much diversity. So many different ways to exist, right out our back door.

Nature is unfathomable. The deeper we go into it, the more we see. From subatomic particles to galaxies, from a single cell of bacteria to the Amazon rainforest, there is so much going on all at once. How can we possibly wrap our brains around it all? Perhaps it is enough to simply marvel at the wonder and beauty of it all. But no, some of us want to go even deeper, hoping to find the driving force behind his phenomenon so casually referred to as evolution.

Nature spelled with a capital “N.” Yeah, that’s what I’m after.

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Mar 31 2016

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Nature’s Spoilers

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virusMy big plans to take advantage of spring’s early arrival were confounded by the smallest biological entity. I came down with the flu a week ago. Yessir, big old brainy me, Homo sapiens, dropped by a mere virus – something that doesn’t have a single living cell to call its own.

Flu season is peaking late in Vermont, or so I’ve been told. I haven’t really been paying attention. You see, I got a flu shot last fall so I had nothing to worry about. Anyway, I started sneezing last Thursday – what I thought was book dust – and landed on my back a couple days later. I ended up in the doctor’s office yesterday, getting meds to fight a secondary infection.

Why do viruses exist? What purpose do they serve in the grand scheme of things that we call Nature? They’re just puny protein packets hellbent on replicating at someone else’s expense – the punks of the universe. From my higher-life-form worldview, they’re no damned good. But there are strains of bacteria, like the ones throwing a party in my lungs right now, that see things differently. My loss is their gain.

The fact that I’m even having these thoughts is a sure sign that I’m feeling better. Hooray for antibodies – the proteins wearing white hats! And antibiotics, too! Soon I’ll be on my feet again and taking a long hike somewhere. As far as my dog Matika is concerned, that day can’t come soon enough. Staying indoors all day is not her idea of fun.

 

 

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