As I mentioned in my last post, in my biology class we are moving away from studying evolution and animal diversification and moving into the world of plants. I was not sure what I would think of it because I'm much more drawn to the animal and human world - blood and guts and how they all work. Or on the other hand, I'm also fascinated by the microscopic world of bacteria and viruses because they are so endlessly fascinating. I just didn't know how I'd really feel about plants.
But I'm getting into it. I am such a treehugger at heart, and not just in a "we have to be good to the environment" sort of way (though I do, strongly, feel that way), but in more in the way that I just love trees. They make me happy in some inexplicable way that seems to be subconscious, below any surface of thought. When I am surrounded by trees, it's like something deeply ancient is just satisfied. Even looking at pictures of trees makes me happy. I love trees.
The trees I know best are the ones that live in places I have lived, and especially the ones on Orcas Island, partly because one of the classes I used to teach, way back when I did environmental education, was forest ecology and it involved tree identification. I know my alders and cedars especially well. In fact I was looking at a picture of tree needles in the textbook and then the notes and thinking how much it looked like the needles of the western redcedar. All it had as a label was the scientific name which was unfamiliar, but after too long the curiosity got the most of me. I just kept thinking, that picture has to be cedar, so I looked up the scientific name of western redcedar and sure enough it was Thuja plicata, the same name attached to that picture.
One thing I have noticed (and appreciated) about Portland that is different from Orcas is how there are so many more deciduous trees here. I think about it all the time when I'm walking to class or out on the Park Blocks, because though I love the evergreens of Orcas, I always missed everything that comes with deciduous trees - colored leaves in fall covering the ground, the bare branches in winter that make it feel like winter even when there's no snow. I grew up with that so I think it reminds me of winter in an early imprint sort of way, and so though it may sound a little off, I really like seeing the bare branches this time of year.
I've been reading that pines (and other conifers) tend to do better in colder temperatures, and it just drives home the temperature difference between my new and old places of residence. I don't think it's that different this time of year between the two, but summers are hugely different, with Orcas being considerably colder. There really is a big difference in the trees, but some similarities too. It will be interesting to see what I end up collecting for my plant press project. I am thinking of getting a local field guide. Time to start getting more familiar and versed in the new makeup of trees and plants.
I find myself having a million questions about plants and trees. Like, okay, if conifers are the trees that thrive in cold temperatures and high elevations and deciduous trees traditionally don't, why is that some cottonwoods and poplars cover high-elevation areas? That was definitely the case in Flagstaff, Arizona, though there are also huge Ponderosa Pine forests as well.
And why is it that so many plants that we use medicinally are poisonous plants (belladonna, foxglove, curare)? I guess it probably all has to do with amount and concentrations, but still it seems a little weird. And interesting.
Or, speaking of cedars, why does my book say that red and yellow cedars aren't "true cedars" and what is a true cedar?
The reproductive and life cycle habits of plants are a bit hard to get my mind around but I'm working on it.
They changed the name of the female parts of flowers from pistils to carpels, which I am not a fan of at all, but it's funny how going over these things quickly brought up something I had totally forgotten about from my childhood. I don't remember exactly what grade I was in, though if I had to guess I would guess fourth, and I had to do a presentation on the parts of the flower and I had made an overhead projection thingy of it, I can remember drawing the flower in blue and labeling it, but when it came time to stand up and talk in front of the class, I completely froze! It was like all my words dried up and I was so worried I didn't really know it that well (I had done the project a bit last minute) that I couldn't talk. And then it was so mortifying to freeze like that in front of the class that I just never got any words out. I felt so terrible. I've had an interesting relationship with public speaking over the years, that's for sure.
I am feeling a bit afraid the same thing could happen in music class now, which is probably also what made me think of this old incident. I am getting closer to finding a song, thinking I'll either go with "Defying Gravity" (thanks Silver Lining) or the song I had come up with from The Secret Garden, "Hold On." We are doing workshops in the class, meaning that we sing all or part of our song and the instructor gives us tips and feedback to help us gear up for the actual performance. My workshop is Friday, the last possible day. I will need to decide for sure soon. I think I'll go to the library tomorrow and try to find some sheet music.
I picked out my classes for next quarter - biology again, back to the night section which I miss, and this time for my other class I am taking piano. I am really looking forward to that! I have a digital piano and have been playing around on it lately and it will be great to have a class with some formal instruction because right now I just go off of a book, and intermittently play phrases from a "Tori Amos for Beginners" piano book, but really I don't know if I'm doing things right or not. And playing piano is so much less nerve-wracking than singing in front of people! So I look forward to that too, though I am thinking about looking into private voice lessons if I could find something affordable, because I really do want to improve my technique and all of that.
In other news, I applied for something that I think is going to be soooo cool. It's called Camp Eureka, and it's a weekend science camp for blind youth in Montana that will have the kids do some monitoring of snow geese migration. What is especially awesome (I mean really it's awesome enough already) is that poetry and journalling are incorporated into the experience. That is just so up my alley it's not even funny. And it's scheduled for one weekend with another as a backup in case of weather problems, and they just happen to be the two weekends of my spring break!
I'm looking into another similar program this summer called Junior Science Academy, and a few other things!
Life is good. I am eating candy hearts (can't remember the last time I had those for Valentine's Day) from my apartment management, remembering how last year at this time I was in Delhi eating banana pancakes, and yeah, life is good.
Oh! I also wanted to mention, I recently finished the book Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese. It was recommended by an instructor last quarter, and it is such a good read. I highly pass on the recommendation (though I will say it is not ideal for the reader who gets squeamish about medical details and procedures). It's about a set of twin boys born in Ethiopia whose mother (a nun) dies in childbirth and whose father (an English surgeon) flees. It's told by one of the twins and it's a rich journey through his life and the lives of those around him. I don't want to give anything away, so suffice to say it's very engrossing and takes on all kinds of landscapes and just sooooo good.
"Schism" - TOOL - I have been listening to more TOOL lately. This song is so good, and sometimes I feel like this song has weaved it's way in and out of my life in so many different ways over the last ten years or so, influenced my own writing, marked turning points in my life, that sort of thing. Lateralus is such an excellent album. I'm also realizing I'm way overdue to listen to 10,000 Days, which is also really excellent. I love Maynard's vocals and lyrics.
I know the pieces fit cuz I watched them fall away
Mildewed and smoldering. Fundamental differing.
Pure intention juxtaposed will set two lovers souls in motion
Disintegrating as it goes, testing our communication
The light that fueled our fire then has burned a hole between us so
We cannot see to reach an end, crippling our communication.
I know the pieces fit cuz I watched them tumble down
No fault, none to blame, it doesn't mean I don't desire to
Point the finger, blame the other, watch the temple topple over.
To bring the pieces back together, rediscover communication
The poetry that comes from the squaring off between,
And the circling is worth it.
Finding beauty in the dissonance.
There was a time that the pieces fit, but I watched them fall away.
Mildewed and smoldering, strangled by our coveting
I've done the math enough to know the dangers of our second guessing
Doomed to crumble unless we grow, and strengthen our communication.
Cold silence has a tendency to atrophy any
Sense of compassion
Between supposed lovers
Between supposed lovers
I know the pieces fit
I know the pieces fit
I know the pieces fit
I know the pieces fit
LOVE IN THE DESERT
2 hours ago