Saturday, August 28, 2004

Cross-Pollinations: the marriage of science & poetry by Gary Paul Nabhan

An extraordinary book.

of datura and hawkmoths
"Once when I had dusted the insides of an open blossom with an ultraviolet dye powder, which the moths transported from bloom to bloom, I discovered something neurobiologists wished to know, something that had been outside their line of focus. I discovered that a Manduca hawkmoth that first visited a dye-dusted flower was just as likely to fly 350 yards before dipping into another corolla as it was to move to the closest plant bloom. They are such strong fliers that they seem unimpressed by optimal foraging theories, which predict that they should move in the most energetially efficient manner, consuming more nectar by moving the shortest possible distance between two points. And so it is with poets. It is largely beyond their capacity to predict that the next item will be to capture their imaginations (to feed their souls), or how far they must be willing to travel before reaching their goals." (7-8)

"Excinction seldom comes in one fell swoop, with a bulldozer's scoop or the shot out of a single gun barrel. Instead, it occurs when a web of supporting relationships unravels. It occurs whenever we or any other species are unable to sustain mutually beneficial interactions with those around us, those with whom we have been historically associated.... They die by suffering from the loss of ecological companionship." (12-13)
Dan Janzen "extinction of relationships" (62)
finds sunburnt cactus and realized it's because an ironwood tree a few feet away was cut down.
the cactus dies a few days later
"Like the cactus, we stand in relation to others or we succumb to failure. Curiously, I am propped up by some relationships that I may have believed I only imagined at first, but they have been proven to be physically tangible for me and for others. That is to say, as Bill Stafford once suggested, that we benefit from 'stories that could be true'--that re recognize new possibilities in the world through our imaginations, and then we see that they become manifest in other ways." (63)

high school art class, after being diagnosed with colorblindness:
"Over that long and lonely semester, Dorothy Ives helped me be less reactive to what others thought of me; she offered me a means of understanding the ecology of colors as they interacted with one another and with my own eyes. Each hue's salience was embedded ina particular context, peculiar to the viewer's perceptual capabilities and cultural biases." (23)
"I could not see red when some friends giddily pointed out a crimson Indian paintbrush on a rock wall....I later learned that the opposite is also true: certain patterns boldly stood out for me when color-normal people paid them no mind." (23-24)

"whenever a people who had eaten desert foods for centuries had been displaced or had lost their traditional diet, their incidence of diabetes skyrocketed. This was not only true for Australian aborigines and the Pima, Papago, and other O'odham, but also for Yemenite and Ethiopian Jews who moved to Israel and adopted the Westernized diet of Israeli Jews." (51)

Scott Slovic on Nabhan: "tends to be relatively unconscious of the values aspect of this writing when he works in the storytelling mode, but that he clarifies his own thinking by exploring topics through story....story as a special 'zone of tension,' as a form of language that enales the illumination of scientific information and the articulation of personal and cultural values." (76-77)

Slovic: "Nabhan belongs to a rare group of contemporary scientist-writers that includes Edward O. Wilson, Robert Michael Pyle, Chet Raymo, Bernd Heinrich, Jared Diamond, and Tim Flannery. What's unique about all of these thinkers is their ability to gather and process information as field scientists and to express their findings with the imagistic, metaphorical, and narrative flair of poets, novelists, and literary essayists." (77-78)


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