Antidotes and Analgesics

The Question as I posed it to John, slightly augmented:

The next 6 months will see an avalanche of News of Fresh Disasters, a slough of despond we won't be able to dodge. So some sort of Antidote seems a necessity.

Where might (or will) YOU go for an analgesic?

This Question harks back to another that my yellow pads tell me we considered in September 2020: In what do we take refuge? what do we "find security and stability within?" Unfortunately I didn't write much at the time, beyond identifying my refuges as family, friends, memories; and capabilities and collections and winging it from there.

This iteration of the basic Question asks whither you'll go to avoid being sucked into the Slough of Despond that mass media produce and social media amplify.

Myself, I'm attracted to the PLANT world, via immersion in botany. I've found Zoë Schlanger's The Light Eaters: How the Unseen World of Plant Intelligence Offers a New Understanding of Life on Earth really inspiring, but I'm also looking forward to rereading Michael Pollan and a whole armload of other material:
Plants are so unlike people that it's very difficult for us to appreciate fully their complexity and sophistication. Yet plants have been evolving much, much longer than we have, have been inventing new strategies for survival and perfecting their designs for so long that to say that one of us is the more "advanced" really depends on how you define that term, on what "advances" you value. Naturally we value abilities such as consciousness, toolmaking, and language, if only because these have been the destinations of our own evolutionary journey thus far. Plants have traveled all that distance and then some — they've just traveled in a different direction.

❧ ❧ ❧ ❧ ❧

It was just over a week ago that a Maria Popova post pointed me to Schlanger's book: Popova on The Light Eaters (24v24) (exemplary Popova presentation), and I've just finished the first reading, which inspired my response to the Question. Here's a link to my Kindle Notebook for the book, the nearest I can come to a precis at the moment.

Here we are, in early June, surrounded by the sheer magic of the daily ramble of Spring, plants everywhere I look. And I know so little about them... pay so little attention to their lives. It's not I who tends this marvelous verdant 'scape, and I surely owe it much more attention and appreciation. Likewise the persons who do tend the 'scape... That's one motive for this venture into the botanical world: to better understand my own surroundings.

Another inducement for attention to the botanical is the absolutely marvelous Field Guide to the Patchy Anthropocene: The New Nature (by Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing, Jennifer Deger, Alder Keleman Saxena, and Feifei Zhou), in which the notion of the feral surfaces: the province of living things that accompany Homo sapiens but are not under the control of humans —invasive species most noticeably, moved around the globe by human activities, often inadvertently.

❧ ❧ ❧ ❧ ❧

A field study suggested itself to me, something I can do while picking up trash: to map and analyze where there are clumps of Japanese knotweed on the peninsula?

As to how they got to where they are now: most don't look like they were garden exotics that just escaped. People don't have knotweed IN their yards, but the plant does appear in areas between those of habitation. There has to be a word for those often feral stretches of 'weeds' and the ordinarily untended vegetation that comes up all along the road where there aren't houses: the verge that the Town mows, and the vegetation that lives beyond the mowed swath. And that suggests that attention be paid to the judgmental category of "weeds".

❧ ❧ ❧ ❧ ❧

What is Darwin's "abominable mystery?" Center for Plant Conservation

Darwin's abominable mystery: Insights from a supertree of the angiosperms T. Jonathan Davies et al. (2004) PNAS

The Messiah in the Mountain: Darwin on Wonder and the Spirituality of Nature Maria Popova

That we can wonder is what saves us. The price evolution had us pay for our exquisite consciousness is an awareness of our mortality — an awareness unbearable without the capacity for wonder at the miracle of existing at all, improbable as we each are against the staggering odds of never having been born, alive on an improbable world unlike any other known. Wonder is the religion nature invented long before we told our first myths of prophets and messiahs, the great benediction of our fate as borrowed stardust on short-term loan from an entropic universe.

...and Kate hands me Reading the Forested Landscape: A Natural History of New England Tom Wessels et al.

❧ ❧ ❧ ❧ ❧

Monday morning brings exemplars of The Slough:

"How can you think about that, with everything that's going on in the field of AI?"

* * * * *

Are We Doomed? Here's how to think about it (Rivka Galchen, New Yorker)

❧ ❧ ❧ ❧ ❧

(I'm gathering a shelflist of plant books and others of tangential importance)

❧ ❧ ❧ ❧ ❧

It occurred to me that Ursula Le Guin had a lot to say about plants, and especially about trees. Here's a set of links to explore further:

Vegempathy: A Modest Proposal (Ursula Le Guin)
...Science has only just begun to investigate plant sensitivity and plant communication. The results are still meager, but positive, fascinating, and strange. The mechanisms and processes, being so very different from the senses and nervous systems of animals, are barely understood. But so far what science has to say on the subject fails to justify the convenient belief that plants are insensate. We don’t know what the carrot feels.

The Word for World Is Forest (Wikipedia)

Vaster than Empires and More Slow (Wikipedia)

It's All Relative: Le Guin's 'Direction of the Road' (Isaac Yuen)

By exploring the world through the perspective of a tree, the story breaks down the notion that non-human life are merely objects and commodities. Like Botany, it reminds us that immobile organisms are living beings that experience the world through internal realities.
Eternity is none of my business. I am an oak, no more, no less. I have my duty, and I do it; I have my pleasures, and I enjoy them, though they are fewer, since the birds are fewer, and the wind's foul

(I have the text in The Unreal and the Real via Kindle)

Deep in admiration? Ursula Le Guin and the art of the plant Ingrid Hoelzl

...Ursula Le Guin's keynote at the Arts of Living on a Damaged Planet conference in 2014, titled "Deep in Admiration"...

Anthropocene: Arts of Living on a Damaged Planet with Keynote speech by Ursula K. Le Guin (2014)
...Lichen: cyanobacteria, fungi and yeast
Not a species, not an individual, a mesh
That is alive
, that wants to stay alive
Conatus [ref: Norwegian botanist Johannes Musaeus Norman in 1852]
Drawing pictures on the rock
Parietal art for us to see
But the art of lichen is elsewhere
The art of symbiotic living
Hard to grasp (without language)
Only glimpses in dreams, through drugs
Bones, marrow, guts, flesh, skin, touch
No communication here, only friction
The Hinges of Reality, reprocessed

❧ ❧ ❧ ❧ ❧

Thinking about the origin of plants leads to reminding oneself about bacteria:

mostly single-celled prokaryotes: no nucleus; in mutualistic, commensal, and parasitic relationships with plants and animals. Eukaryotes resulted from the entering of ancient bacteria into endosymbiotic associations with the ancestors of eukaryotic cells possibly related to Archæa (example: mitochondria). Some eukaryotes that already contained mitochondria also engulfed cyanobacteria-like organisms, leading to the formation of chloroplasts...
The Surprising Archaea: Discovering Another Domain of Life John L. Howland

Introduction to the Cyanobacteria: Architects of earth's atmosphere

Microbial mats, and stromatolites and thrombolites

❧ ❧ ❧ ❧ ❧