building a beautiful and bountiful world in collaboration with nature

Archive for July, 2012

Tree-Brained and Open-Hearted

I get some of my most interesting thoughts while I am gathering up the cow manure in the morning.  As the Chief Manure Manager on Wild Rose, I also gather up donkey manure on a daily basis, and while I do get some good thoughts doing that, it’s the cow manure that seems to trigger the most unusual and creative ideas.  This may have something to do with the quality of the manure.  Many people’s only experience of a “cow pie” is really something closer to a pancake.  My cows leave behind souffles.  This is because we manage their hay and grass for the right balance of protein and sugars.  Not enough sugar means too little food for the all important flora in their stomachs and gut, so proteins go undigested and “cow pancakes” are the result.  As in any form of baking, it’s all about the right balance of ingredients.

I mention all of this to help prepare you for the odd and interesting thought that came my way as I was bending down to place yet another cow souffle in the manure bucket:  What, I thought, if human beings are really just walking, talking trees?

I know this sounds completely bizarre, as though, obviously, I’m a brick shy of a load at this point, and, normally, I do keep such thoughts completely to myself.  But these are some of the ingredients that have been simmering on my mind’s back burner:

  • Human brain cells form dendritic branching patterns. (photos at bottom)
  • Dendrites = Trees – essentially. Our brains are filled with trees, or tree-like patterns.
  • Geniuses, such as Albert Einstein, are remarkable, not in the size or weight of their brain, but in the large amount of dendrites formed in their brains.
  • Trees, and especially conifers, are built like antenna.
  • I am certain that trees are information gathering systems, collecting all kinds of tidbits and gossip from the cosmos and passing it on into the soil and ecosystems of Earth.  Phil Callahan is the only scientist I know of who even considered this.  He used a Ficus tree to detect tachyons.  Catriona MacGregor in Partnering with Nature describes a personal experience she had of a tree beaming out its gathered information, and in Anastasia Vladimir Megre describes a similar process.
  • Plants, including trees, are known to perform all the functions that we think of as being done by our nervous systems: sensing the environment, deciding, responding, signalling (i.e. communicating with other plants).
  • What if a plant is the equivalent of a neuron, a brain cell?  What if trees are one of the most highly developed forms of plant neuron?
  • The science of epigenetics teaches that the brain – the sensing, deciding, responding, signalling part – of the cell is the membrane – that outer, semi-permeable skin layer.  (The double helix DNA = reproductive organs.)
  • What if Earth’s outer skin is her “brain”, her nervous system, the sensing, deciding, responding, signalling system of the planet?  This skin could include both atmosphere and solid surface layers.
  • What if we are structures in our planet’s brain?  What is our role within that brain?

And that’s, more or less, when I slid into the thought that we resemble trees on the inside – much more than surface appearances would reflect – and that we might be some evolutionary version of a walking, talking tree.

A day after first considering this, I was given a copy of Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert.  I’m just a short way into it, but was delighted to read about her first experience with an Indonesian medicine man, Ketut Liyer, in which Elizabeth tells him, “…what I want to learn is how to live in this world and enjoy its delights, but also devote myself to God.”  Ketut responded by showing her a sketch of an androgynous human figure, standing up, hands clasped in prayer.  The figure had four legs.  In place of a head, there was only “a wild foliage of ferns and flowers.”  It also had a small, smiling face drawn over the heart.

The imagery of foliage in place of the head got my attention, as did the heart face.  I’ve mentioned in previous blogs that our hearts are made of 60% neural cells.  They are brains too, and judging from the strength of the heart’s electromagnetic field, it is the true head chef in the kitchen of our nervous systems.

Ketut  told Elizabeth that the four legs indicated the strong grounding or connection to Earth needed to live as she described.  He also said, “You must stop looking at the world through your head.  You must look through your heart, instead.  That way, you will know God.”  (Now, God is a word I generally avoid, because it means very different things to different people.  I am pretty sure that in this context we are definitely not talking about the white-bearded fellow with the rulebook.  I think we’re talking about a loving, intelligent Presence that underlies all aspects of the manifested and unmanifest worlds.)

What do trees really do?  What kinds of information do they tune into?  How do they process this information and pass it on into the larger ecosystem?  Do humans have a role to play in this information processing and exchange – either partnering with trees or with plants or with ecosystems in general?

If I learn to see the world through my heart – as Ketut suggests – am I now operating my personal nervous system in a way that syncs it with Nature (aka the God Presence) and allows me to connect with and participate in all the powerful, marvelous ideas and designs flowing through the Earth’s (mem)brain? A cell, now operating as part of the body of the Universe.

Some Photos to Consider:

English: Recreated :File:Neuron-no labels2.png...

English: Recreated :File:Neuron-no labels2.png in Inkscape and hand-tuned to reduce filesize. Created by Quasar (talk) 19:59, 11 August 2009 (UTC) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

neuron fractal 1

neuron fractal 1 (Photo credit: Anthony Mattox)


brains! (Photo credit: cloois)


The Territory Makes the Tomato

A farmer friend of mine, John Tecklin of Mountain Bounty Farm, attended the Terra Madre Conference in Italy several years ago.  Put on by the creators of the Slow Food movement, the conference is a gathering of small-scale farmers from around the world and is held concurrently with the Salone del Gusto, a gigantic celebration of artisanal foods.  I remember John’s enthusiasm on returning from Italy; he was renewed and re-inspired by all the small farms he had visited and all the delicious food he had eaten.

An article sent to me by a reader reminded me of one of the stories John came home with.  He was wandering the food aisles of the Salone del Gusto, drinking in the vast array of cheeses, sausages, breads, and vegetables.  One of the booths featured a tomato – red, plump, and vital – that attracted John.  After talking with the tomato’s grower for a time, John asked the farmer if it would be possible to get some seeds of this tomato.  The farmer looked at John with surprise, and asked where he lived.  When John told him California, the farmer explained that John could not grow this tomato.  It only grew in the one region in Italy where this farmer lived.

When I first heard this story, I didn’t really understand it.  It seemed that the tomato grower was simply being proprietary and didn’t want his beloved tomato to spread around the world.  Now, however, I understand that the tomato farmer was just being honest.  He understood a great truth about the relationship between a thing – including a tomato – and its environment:  They are inseparable.

Had John taken seeds of this tomato home and planted them, he would have grown a different tomato.  The science of epigenetics has discovered that cells are in a constant conversation with their environment.  This conversation often leads to changes in the genetic material, the DNA, of the cell.  A tomato growing in the climate, soils, and water of California will not be the same as a tomato grown in the climate, soils, and water of Italy, even if they start out with the same DNA, because California is not Italy.

This is a concept that winegrowers have long known, and the word they use to describe it is terroir.  Now vegetable growers and chefs are discovering it as well, and they are beginning to form partnerships that celebrate and develop the unique flavors grown in each unique place on Earth.

My thanks to Anna for this link:  Chef David Kinch: Partnership of Restaurant and Farm.