Do Plants Think?

  

Do Plants Think?

After I wrote about our visit to the forest in San Francisco a few weeks ago, we went there again with our friend and his son Daniel, who recently turned eight. Our dog Max enjoyed the outing again, since he could run leash free. On the way back at about five, the setting sun lit the leaf, and before taking a photo of it, I pointed out the effect of the light to Daniel. He was silent for a while, and then suddenly asked, “Do plants think?” I paused before answering. “Why do people think?” I asked. “To make a choice”, he answered. “Do plants need to make a choice? Do they choose where to grow, where to get food, water, light?” I challenged him. He thought for a moment again and then said, “They probably think differently than us.”

I mentioned to him that years ago, I read about how words can affect the structure of water. Japanese scientist Masaru Emoto, researched this subject and wrote a book in 2004, “The Hidden Messages in Water”. And since the human body is made up of 60% water and plants cannot live without water, and words can affect our well-being, there might be something in our lives which can affect the way we all process information. However, to be sure, I reached out to my favorite source – Google. When I searched, ‘Do plants think?’ to my surprise, I found out that Daniel was not the first one to ask this profound question. On January 10, the publication “The World”, reported, “New research on plant intelligence may forever change how you think about plants.” Turns out that plants have astounding abilities to sense and react to the world. Michael Pollan, author of such books as “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” and “The Botany of Desire”, says plants have all the same senses as humans and then some.

There is another book written by Daniel Chamovitz titled, “What a Plant Knows: A Field Guide to the Senses”. Online I found the book’s summary – “Paralleling the human senses, the author explains the secret lives of various plants, from the colors they see to whether or not they really like classical music to their ability to sense nearby danger.”

Turns out that Daniel at his young age knew something that scientists and writers have been trying to prove – that there are so many things beyond our knowledge and comprehension.

P.S. In Golden Gate Park I encountered and photographed Daniel and three other young people, who belong to the generation who ask a lot of surprising questions. It is our job as adults to help them to find the right answers and to learn while doing that.

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How a Cow Saved Millions of Lives

  

How a Cow Saved Millions of Lives

Everyone in the world is waiting for a vaccine for obvious reasons – no one wants to die from COVID-19.

As it stands now, there are 23 companies that are working on coronavirus treatments or vaccines. One of them, Israeli Bio-Defense Lab announced on May 5th, 2020 that it found an “antibody that neutralizes” the coronavirus. Those companies better rush, since our daughter, who is expecting her first baby in the beginning of September, informed us that we will probably have to wait until there’s a vaccination before we can meet our granddaughter. There have been cures for plagues for over 3,300 years. The Torah describes a plague, which struck the children of Israel who started sinning in the desert after their exodus from Egypt, and thousands began to die. Moses told Aaron to quickly take a firepan with incense (a ketoret) to go into the middle of the congregation and atone for their sins. “He stood between the dead and the living, and the plague was checked. Those who died from the plague were fourteen thousand seven hundred.” (Numbers 17:13-14) But what was the incense called ketoret, and how did Moses know about this miracle cure? According to the folklore story, when Moses had ascended to heaven to receive the Torah, the Angel of Death, whose name was Satan, taught him the secret.

However, it took thousands of years and millions of people dying before vaccines were discovered. I learned about this in the book “The 100 Most Important Events & People of The Past 1000 Years.” There I found that “The eradication of one of the worst plagues ever can be traced to a cow. Smallpox caused scarring and blindness and at its peak in the 18th century killed 60 million Europeans, most of them children.”

In 1796, Edward Jenner, a general practitioner from rural England, theorized that cowpox built one’s immunity to smallpox. He extracted a cowpox-infected lymph from a cow and inserted a small amount into the arm of an eight-year-old boy. Seven weeks later, Jenner injected a boy with smallpox. His immune system responded positively. This discovery led to the birth of the science of immunology. Vaccinations became a reality. The word is derived from the Latin vaccinus, meaning “of the cow”.

We live in different times, thousands of professionals in many different countries spend billions of dollars trying to find the cure which might revolutionize how many diseases (not only COVID-19) are treated. It was Satan who told Moses about the cure. Dr. Jenner experimented with inoculating using cowpox. In 1928 Alexander Fleming discovered penicillin, which helped thousands of lives. He began a series of experiments involving the common staphylococcal bacteria. An uncovered Petri dish sitting next to an open window became contaminated with mold spores. Fleming named the ‘mold juice’ penicillin. This accidental discovery changed the course of medicine. What will help modern science to find a new cure? Time will tell.

P.S. To photograph cows, I decided to drive to the area close to Tomales Bay in Marin. These four images are the result of this trip.

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The Master Word

  

The Master Word

This story was inspired by the book titled “This is Earl Nightingale”. The book has been sitting on my bookshelf, and we have stared at each other, until I finally picked it up again. Since it was last published in 1983, it was awhile since I held it in my hands. I was first introduced to this remarkable author a few years earlier, when I listened to his recordings called Insight on audio tapes (remember those?), which served for me as motivation in my early years in San Francisco. His other book, “The Strangest Secret” used to be called, “One of the great motivational books of all time”.

The book “This is Earl Nightingale” contains motivational stories on various topics. I opened on the subject “Work” with the title “The Master Word” written by the great physician Sir William Osler; it is about a word that will work wonders for anyone regardless of their age or calling. For man, woman or child the master word brings meaning and usefulness to life, new clarity, self-respect and satisfaction”…“Do you know what the Master Word is? It is work! It makes you wonder, too, how a person can take his most precious possessions for granted. How can he allow his loved ones, his home, his health, his abilities and his work to lose their charm and become dull and dreary? What happens to the excitement of the first days, when his wife, his home and children, his work, were new in his life?”

The real question is – what to do – especially now, when the pandemic affects so many people’s line of work. Are you looking forward to returning to work, to earn money, to take care of your family, not to be dependent on the government support? I suspect you do. I will finish with a quote from a story: “Even in the meanest sorts of labor, the whole soul of a man (or a woman) composed into a kind of real harmony the instant he (or she) set himself to work.”

P.S. I decided to share four encounters with you of the people who do their work without us necessarily noticing them.

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A Forest in San Francisco?

  

A Forest in San Francisco?

Yes, we have at least two forests. One is on Mount Davidson, not far from where we live. I used to visit it often, and have shared my experience in the Encounters stories a number of times. Actually, it is a 40-acre park with lush vegetation, and many trails, leading to the top where a huge concrete cross is located, which can be seen above tall trees. We’ve gone there a number of times with Max, but for some reason, he does not like it there (perhaps he smells coyotes). However, we recently discovered, almost by chance, another forest, which Max liked that is located “under our noses” so to speak, in the heart of Golden Gate Park.

Our regular destination for walks is at Stow Lake. We also sometimes go to Fort Funston. This where we were planning to go on a Sunday afternoon, only to discover that due to the pandemic, all possible places to park our car were blocked. So we turned around and drive to Golden Gate Park. But instead of turning right from Sunset Boulevard, we turned left and then right. Elfa noticed a trail with a large sign, “Dogs without leashes are allowed”. We parked, and to our great surprise, we ended up in a forest wedged between two roads. After an hour of our total enjoyment, Max was tired and we returned to the car. This first discovery led us to seek other destinations and trails in the park. And there are plenty of them. Recently, on April 4th, the park, which covers over 1000 acres, celebrated its 150th birthday. To avoid large crowds due to the pandemic, the celebration was virtual.

I drive through the park at least three times a week on the way to Max’s dog sitter. In spite of the restrictions, it is full of life and young people. Many wear masks, but all seem to come here to have a good time. Recently, the Botanical Garden reopened its doors. Unfortunately, they do not allow dogs in. A friend of mine told me that some days she makes sandwiches and coffee and goes there to have lunch by herself, just sitting on the bench and reading a book. When was the last time you did that?

P.S. These four images from the forest where we encountered only a few people are self-evident.

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How Can We Coexist?

  

How Can We Coexist?

In spite of the Shelter-in-Place ordinance, we have been allowed to take our dog Max to his dog sitter, where he goes three times a week. This has given us the opportunity to focus on our work. When I recently brought him to his second “mum”, Jennifer was ready to go to the park, along with her eight “babies”. In the afternoon the dogs go to a different park with her husband Jim. When she opened the door of her van, Max jumped in and settled in on his favorite seat. Typically, when they get back from the park, Max settles in his big chair in her living room, and if some young dogs try to challenge him, it is enough for him to growl, and the order is established.

If you recognize your own behavior, you are not alone. We all develop our own patterns and habits of behavior until life brings us surprises. Not every dog is so fortunate. Many adults and children have had to stay home together over the past few months. Someone else was sitting in our familiar chairs. It is not easy to be with other people and dogs twenty-four hours a day. We all have to learn to coexist, and it can be challenging. Perhaps since we are forced to stay home during the pandemic, we’ve had the opportunity to focus on what we have in common and to learn how to live together. When I mentioned to Jennifer that we all behave like Max, she told me that she and Jim have been together for almost twenty-five years. In spite of their different upbringing and the way each has behaved (even the different ways they eat), and now working from home all the time, they focus on their love of dogs and each other.

I think that love is the answer (or solution) for co-existence. I have easy proof of that statement. On August 8th, my wife Elfa and I are going to celebrate our fifty-third wedding anniversary. In our lives, we are always together. In September, we are going to celebrate thirty-five years since we jointly started our mortgage company, Pacific Bay Financial. We both have different personalities and different interests, and do not always agree (at least not right away). But our love for each other, our family, our friends, our co-workers, our clients, our city, and our country has help us compromise and find what is important and lasting.

Any action of love starts with us loving ourselves, which is probably the most difficult to accept, since it might feel egotistical. My wife taught me long time ago that if you have a conflict/disagreement with someone, connect with your heart, which only contains love. Do not let your brain interfere. But at the same time, ask yourself what you want. If the answer is co-existence, the heart will guide you.

P.S. Nature is the best place to see co-existence in action. You can see it clearly from these four images, which I encountered in Golden Gate Park.

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