It’s not so bad, staying put, staying still, in this one place during this time of social isolation. We count ourselves lucky to be healthy and “okay” in this dire pandemic time. If I could, blindfolded, put a pin in a world map, I’d want to choose this as my home right now. I try to keep myself occupied with the ever-present nearby. Even though I’ve lived here for decades I am still learning its stories, still finding new things to learn and put in my small pile of wonders. Paying attention to what got Margaret’s attention has brought me to see so much richness right under my feet. Take these pine-cones I habitually pick up on walks….
Just the other day I was reading about Douglas-fir cones in a book so good I can absorb only sips at a time: Tree, A Life Story, by David Suzuki and Wayne Grady. They are unfathomable complex structures. I will give you one tiny piece of their role in the tree’s reproductive story as told by the authors:
Pollination by wind is a wild but dubious adventure and is considered quite primitive among plants, since there is no control over where the pollen will land. In contrast, pollination carried out by an insect provides a reasonable probability that pollen stuck to the insect will find its way to another flower of the same species. In fact, many species evolve flowers that are attractive to specific insects for just that purpose.
But here is the kicker:
But conifers developed their pollinating techniques before there were flying insects. The flowering plants, or angiosperms, evolved only during the Cretaceous period, which ended 65 million years ago, when gymnosperms—conifers, cycads, and ginkgos—had already been around for at least 300 million years.
A case of evolution not fixing what wasn’t broken? The conifers seemed to double-down on the pollination method of reproduction. The authors go on to describe the incredibly clever series of developments and mechanisms that evolved in the long stretch of time that still bring us Douglas-firs today. Primitive? Ancient, yes. Venerable. Three hundred million years have taught them a few survival tricks, indeed. We can delve more into some of those details at a later time; all I want to say now is my feeling of awe and respect in the presence of one of these giants. This one can be found in one of our city parks. Imagine all it has witnessed! I don’t know but I would guess it is perhaps at least a century old, or much more?
Today on her birthday, April 17, Margaret would have been one hundred and thirty-five years old. As venerable as a Douglas-fir. Her enjoyment of the world, her sense of adventure and curiosity, her knowledge of the natural world, make her seem young though, and very present still today. Let’s celebrate her birthday by watching a bird poke around our garden, or note how the buds have swollen and blossomed into flowers and leaves, how blue the sky is on this spring day. And maybe find some fir cones that have escaped the attentions of local squirrels, part of the circle of life and renewal.