Sunday, May 31, 2015
Although I know and understand the mechanisms controlling growth and reproduction, and I know that these processes have long been understood and even replicated in the laboratory, still there are things in the natural world that amaze me, that seem somehow mysterious.
I understand how legs move without conscious thought: left, right, left, right and so on. I know it isn’t necessary to tell my hand to open or close around something I want to hold. And I know that each spring there will be blossoms and in the late summer there will be fruit. But it still amazes me.
I understand and I accept the truth of what I know, but I still wonder at how it all works. This morning for instance, walking up a well-worn path that leads to the top of the mountain behind the house, I couldn’t deny a sense of wonder as I observed the tiny white blossoms and slightly bigger white flowers that are now on either side of the trail I was following.
The little buds grow on what were brown sticks a few weeks ago. Thorny purple sticks, taller and bushier, were totally bare three weeks ago. Today they have white blossoms about an inch in diameter. The leaves on both of these are green and healthy. In time, say a couple of months, the tiny buds will be mountain blueberries. The thorny purple stick will be laden with wild black raspberries. Buddy and I will nibble at those especially, come late August, and I will bring home a bag of them every few days. These are the same fruit that my old partner, Max, loved to pluck for himself and that Buddy and Teddy love for me to feed them.
Of the blueberries, there is little to say, beyond noting that while we have probably a hundred easily accessible bushes, it has been years since we’ve tasted them. By the time the fruit is an hour old it seems, the deer and bears, raccoons and birds have stripped the bushes clean. Perhaps it is the thorns that protect the raspberries, or maybe the wild visitors find them too bitter, but for whatever reason, I am happy to have the fruit for our table.
I know that this isn’t a miracle or a mystery, this transformation from dead appearing stick to tasty treat. It is a well-defined sequence of events, evolved and passed down from season to season, generation to generation. Still, like having my feet move when I want to walk, I am always amazed and a bit thrilled to see that the process works, minute by minute, day by day, season and year, again and again.
If the process is no secret, and I know that some if not all can be replicated in the lab or in the greenhouse, it still fills me with wonder that it happens at all, that nature can and does work out without our help, a way to keep things going, repeating and repeating generation after generation.
Nature, in its way, is consistent, even when it mutates into new forms or variants. The same process that began with life itself, perhaps billions of years ago, that can be replicated in varying degrees in the laboratory or the field, continues to carry the burden of life without our direct intervention, or without conscious thought.
It is not so much, in this knowledge-filled world, that we don’t know the answers. We do.
What we don’t always know, are the questions.