Monday, April 20, 2009

Seeing Red, Feeling Warmth ... and Healing

Winter is over - finally! Along with the swarming of ants and the arrival of robins, a red peppering on the deciduous forest helps announce spring in Upstate New York. 

Sadly, though, last winter's ice storm left gaping wounds on most trees, especially the maples. Their red patina seems like a bloody stain on the forest's black skeleton. 

Maple tree flowers are not simply red. Put your nose to them and you'll see a mix of colors that code their structural complexity. Subtle yellow and green pistils are crowned by a burst of pale filaments, each of which is punctuated by a slate-blue anther. For fun, I'll explore the hidden hues of their pollen grains using a microscope. Dan Mazia, celebrated microscopist of the last 

century once wrote, "... think with the eyes and see with the brain. Deep revelations into the nature of living things continue to travel on beams of light."

In the lab, thinking and seeing are best done alone, and in silence. In the forest, I trust that beams of light will warm the trees and help heal the wounds of winter.

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