building a beautiful and bountiful world in collaboration with nature

Archive for the ‘Nature’s Intelligence’ Category

Time to Evolve

Dear Reader,

I have not posted here regularly in quite some time, and am finding that it is time for me to move on. I am leaving this site up because there is some wonderful archival material here – especially if you are interested in nature’s intelligence.

Meanwhile, I am in the process of creating a “real” business – one that satisfies my inner prompting to help people recognize their connection to nature and live a richer and happier life as a result. The new website is NaturalCollaboration.com

I am opening a blog there by talking about my adventures in reading Bari Tessler’s new book, The Art of Money: A Life-Changing Guide to Financial Happiness. Come and visit me there.

Much Gratitude,

Renee

Senses and Sensitivity

IMG_4027I’ve harvested several heads of purple cauliflower in the past few weeks. They are beautiful creatures, glowing in a glorious halo of green leaves as they sit regally atop foot high stalks. I always put off  picking them until the last possible moment. Their beauty is a sensory delight that is worth savoring, but that moment arrives when they start to shoot up and another inch of growth will make them begin to resemble a broccoli more than a cauliflower. That’s when I decide to enjoy the taste and smell of the flowerets as they lie enfolded in butter and spices on my dinner plate. A purple cauliflower is complete nutrition for the senses.

I have also been savoring the concept of perception these past few weeks.  Perception, I am coming to understand, is everything. What can be perceived can be interpreted, understood, utilized, acted on.  Perception brings with it the ability to respond.

Perception is a matter of sense and sensitivity.  What are we able to sense?  How much subtlety are we sensitive to?

I talked about Michael Pollan’s article on plant intelligence a few blogs back. In it he mentions that scientists have isolated at least 15 distinct plant senses. The roots alone are able to sense light, moisture, gravity, temperature, and pressure. Plants seem to sense sound waves, as when the roots move to an outwardly dry pipe that contains running water. They may even echolocate – like bats – using clicking noises generated by the growth of their cells to find the location of trellises and other inanimate objects in their vicinity.

How is it that plants can have 15 senses, but we have only 5? Or 6 if you count that controversial 6th sense. Are we really stuck in that narrow of a lens? Is that truly all we get to use to perceive the richness of the world?

I sense – with an undefined and unnamed sense – that we have been short-changing ourselves and that our own list of senses is much longer than 5 or 6.  The Jacobson’s organ senses pheromones, the unscented chemistry of the air. Our hearts are electromagnetic sensors of the highest order. If some grad student wants to take the time to break it out, we could probably generate a list of at least 5 or 6 more senses from the heart alone. The same is undoubtedly true for the gut. While we’re at it, why not count in the sensory awareness of the bacteria that inhabit these bodies? Their presence is integral to our health and survival, and they are the primary educators of our immune systems.

I’m just scratching the surface here – an off the top of my head laying out of how we come to know what we know, think what we think, and believe what we believe.

Why is this important?

Because perception of Self is the most crucial of all perceptions. That is the perception that defines the boundaries, allows growth to happen, and determines the trajectory of our actions.

Limit yourself to 5 senses and you have limited everything you do. Limit yourself to 15 senses and you have moved that boundary line considerably.  Do you want to communicate with plants?  It’s a lot easier when you move the boundaries you’ve placed on your perceptions.

Me? I’m holding out for at least 20 distinct senses incorporated into the design of this brilliantly human bodymind.

Biology is Resilient!

IMG_2915The rain is falling regularly as we enter into spring, and our little rock bars are helping to slow its flow and sink it into the soil.  The California drought is by no means over, especially with the snow level staying at 5500 feet and higher, but I do imagine that all those hard-working people overseeing water distribution in this state must be getting some sleep again.

The ponds on our property filled about 3 weeks ago, after being dry or mere puddles for most of the winter. It took the frogs all of 2 days, from the time the ponds filled, to commence their evening chorus festivals. I delight in listening to them sing each night. It’s a natural, rhythmic lullaby.

Pear and apple trees are budding out already in some places, a testimony to the early warmth we’ve been experiencing. The chickweed and miner’s lettuce are taking off with the new moisture, and pastures that were brown in mid-February are greening up with grasses and herbs. The baby goats will get to meet a green world!

Water is the most wonderful substance! It’s presence makes a huge difference.

The quick response to the rains also makes me appreciate how resilient biological systems are. The frogs and grasses had a much longer wait for full ponds and wet soils than “normal”, but they’ve handled it well. There is so much we don’t yet fully understand about how this planet and all her components work, but biology is truly incredible stuff.

Which leads to a TED talk that I would like to highly recommend. Allan Savory gave this talk about greening the world’s deserts in 2013.  A radically biological approach that mimics the systems nature uses to build deep soils and grow prairies and trees. It is both doable and scalable and sequesters atmospheric carbon as well.  Link is Here.  Enjoy!

The Oldest Among Us

IMG_3895I made a pilgrimage last week, taking advantage of the snow-free roads caused by California’s drought, to visit the Bristlecone Pine Forest in the White Mountains at elevations of 10,000 feet plus.  Some of the trees in this forest are over 4,000 years old – the oldest known living trees, and perhaps the oldest living individuals on the planet.

Sitting among the Elders of Earth, it’s easier to take a larger perspective.  Easier to remember.  Easier to remember who you are.  Easier to remember why you came here.  Easier to remember what life is all about.

Sitting at their feet, I marveled over and over again at the beauty of their spiraling wood, at the baby pine cones in deep maroon and purple hues, at the awesome view of the Sierra Nevada mountains across the valley, at the patience and steadiness it takes to thrive year after year after year at these high, cold elevations.IMG_3892

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Returning home, rested and refreshed, I remember now that the most important thing is marvel, to live with wonder, to appreciate all the explained and unexplained mysteries of everyday life.  How do a trillion cells cooperate to form my body?  How beautiful is the cacophony of frog song around the pond at midnight!  The marvelous flavors – green, smooth, and comforting – of the chickweed growing on the farm.  How wondrous the deep green of a mallow leaf or the bright green of a blade of grass or the ruby glow of a sunset or the bright blue of a cold morning sky!

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This world loves to be adored, loves to be appreciated, loves to be touched, and loves to return all of that to us.  This is why I came.  This is why I love this planet.  This is why I love to work with Nature.

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How to Train Your Houseplant in 5 Easy Sessions

mimosa pudicaA friend recently sent me a link to an excellent article by Michael Pollan published in The New Yorker magazine, entitled “ The Intelligent Plant”. It’s a great overview of what science knows to date about the behaviours and awareness of plants. (Check it out here.)

I found the work of Monica Gagliano particularly intriguing. She is an animal ecologist who designed an ingenious experiment to determine to what extent plants are capable of the most basic form of learning: habituation. Gagliano used mimosa pudica, the sensitive plant, so-called because of its tendency to fold up its leaves in response to being touched, shaken, or dropped. She designed an apparatus that would drop each potted plant a distance of 15 centimeters every 5 seconds for a total of 60 drops per “training” session.

Of the 56 plants in the experiment, all of them eventually disregarded the dropping experience, leaving their leaves open once they determined it to be a “safe” experience. Several of the plants began leaving their leaves open after as few as 4, 5, or 6 drops. When these plants were later shaken by researchers, they all folded their leaves in response. They easily distinguished between being dropped and being shaken. In addition, when returned to the dropping experiment after a 28 day vacation, the plants remembered their previous experiences and left their leaves open. They had learned about being dropped.

The nascent science of plant neurobiology (a controversial term for many scientists as plants have no neurons or brain) is demonstrating that plants are fully capable of learning and remembering. They communicate information to each other through chemical and possibly other forms of signalling. They recognize kin. They form networks of mutual support sharing water and food. They have a minimum of 15 distinct senses through which they perceive their environment, using these to perform such amazing feats as sending their roots around rocks and toxic materials before they have even touched them.

Plants are more akin to animals than most scientists are ready to admit. Though many in the scientific community find the words “plant intelligence” to be offensive or unsettling, I find it reassuring. After all, we rely on the plant kingdom for oxygen, food, water purification, soil stabilization, soil creation, primary chemical research, and a host of other services. Clearly, they know what they are doing. Clearly, they have our backs.

Love Those Soil Creatures!

imagesSeedling2I spent last weekend at the Nevada County Sustainable Food and Farm Conference.  One of the speaker highlights for me was the presentation given by Elaine Ingham of Soil Foodweb fame.  This is the woman who has single-handedly put soil biology – as opposed to soil chemistry – front and center over the past decade.  The January/February 2014 issue of Horticulture magazine has an article entitled “The Root of Good” that offers an excellent synopsis of Elaine’s work.  The compost tea craze that started up in this county about 2 years ago is a direct result of Elaine’s work.  I assume eco-farmers and gardeners around the country are experiencing a similar explosion of businesses making this microbiologically-rich tea available.

Even the most conscientious of organic growers often create biological monocultures in their soils through the practices of ploughing and tilling.  Breaking up the soil like this creates an environment that strongly favors bacteria over the fungi, protozoa, beneficial nematodes, and arthropods, all of which  are essential to the effective cycling of those soil nutrients – all that nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, calcium, and magnesium that we hear so much about.  If we focus on the biology instead of the chemistry, we create an environment where nature can step in and do the necessary tweaking to get it all flowing.

Compost that is well-made, through processes that ensure good aeration, is essential to reintroducing the vast range of microbes to a soil that has leaned too heavily in one direction.  It can be applied directly or used to make a tea that is then sprayed over the plants and soil.  Mulching or perennial plant cover are essential strategies in maintaining good habitat and food resources for those fungi, once balance has been re-established.  Minimizing the amount of tilling and the size of area that is tilled also helps to maintain a diverse soil ecosystem.

The advantages to focusing on your soil’s biology rather than its chemistry are great.  The practices needed to maintain a healthy soil biology also conserve soil moisture (as California heads into a serious drought!), enhance plant health through the balanced nutrition that the microbes unlock, minimize pest damage because healthy plants have greater immunity, and create foods that are more nutritious for us.

The other big benefit lies in the connection.  When we tend to the health and diversity of all biological beings, we tend to our selves at the deepest level.  We acknowledge the power of the smallest creature to make a difference in our lives.  We acknowledge our own power to make a difference in the lives of others.

Note:  Click the link above on Elaine Ingham’s name to hear her on YouTube!

The Architecture of Life (part 3): The Boundaries of Infinity

English: Deutsch:

My husband and I recently spent an evening watching, once again, the DVD Black Wholes, featuring the ideas of Nassim Haramein. Early on Haramein describes the concept of a “bounded infinity”.  Sounds like an oxymoron.  Infinity is, after all, infinity, and something that is bounded is clearly limited, so how could the two exist together?   Ahh, but they do!  In fact, we are each a bounded infinity living in a Universe of bounded infinities.

Haramein uses the simplest tools of
geometry to demonstrate the idea. Draw a circle on a piece of paper.
Inscribe a square into the circle, letting its 4 corners touch the
sides, or boundary, of the circle. Inscribe a new circle inside the
square, and a new square inside this smaller circle, and a new
square, and a new circle…. Eventually, you’ll need a magnifying
glass, and then a microscope, as well as finer and finer pencil tips,
but this inscribing of squares into circles can go on forever, into
infinity, without ever breaking the original boundary of the circle.circles-and-squares

The mathematics of fractals
demonstrates this concept at a more complex level. The Mandelbrot
Set
is the name of a definable shape, and yet any close examination
of its edges leads into a dazzling array of repeating shapes and
forms that include miniature versions of the original Mandelbrot
shape. In this case, the bounded edge is also the infinite edge.
Mathematically, there is no limit to this process.  The ability to
perceive the increasing fineness of detail is the only “limit”.

I look around this world now,
understanding that everything I look on is a bounded infinity, a
defined space connected to the infinite. Think of the bounding
nature of your skin, defining a body containing trillions of human
cells, hundreds of trillions of bacteria, uncountable numbers of
molecules, unimaginable numbers of atoms, and then even more quarks
and bosons and other subatomic particles. Add to all this the
infinity of the spaces between each atomic nucleus and it’s
electrons, and now you begin to remember how truly vast you are.
This is how the infinity of life is “contained” in vessels such
as cells and bacteria and rocks and multicellular organisms such as
ourselves.

Bounded Infinity. The tensegrity of
this dichotomy may be the foundation that drives the Universe, the
basis for the push-pull network of relationships and connections that
creates stars and planets, galaxies and universes. We see this
tensegrity reflected in the bi-polar nature of water and in the
cytoskeleton of our cells, and in the very human realm of male-female
relationships creating a species. This concept of tensegrity could
be the perception that allows us to live in a duality and embrace the
Wholeness of it. The secret to both the stability and the
ever-evolving, changing nature of our planet.

I look now at the fence that defines
the growing area I call Bluebird Farm. Here is a boundary, a
defining line, a semi-permeable membrane, but inside that fence lies
an infinity whose potential and productive capacity is as unlimited
as my imagination.