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Hello, everyone – I hope this finds you all happy and healthy and ready for Spring. This past Thursday marks the end of one of my two science classes this semester. It was a class condensed into half a semester and, although it was not a difficult class for me, I’m glad to finally have a little bit of wiggle room in my schedule and taking that final was a load off my mind, literally.

Also, I seem to have made it past the most difficult part of my biology class. The first half of this semester felt like trying to run through pea soup. Today, it’s rainy and windy and flowers are blooming…all those little signs of Spring are recharging my batteries and the world feels less oppressive and serious.

There haven’t been many opportunities to get outside with my camera, so I’ve been clicking with my iPhone on the run, which is the source of all the pictures I’m sharing today. The tulips are especially exciting because I planted them this winter just so I would see them during the semester when I don’t have time to garden. Turns out, I did the right thing and I’d like to thank myself for the forethought. Thank you, self!

One of the most wonderful things that happened turned out to be a very quiet personal moment in the middle of a difficult biology exam last week. We have been mired in chemistry for the last few weeks and I was getting lost in the details and hadn’t been outside in what seemed like forever. I missed gardening and it felt like I would have my nose in a textbook forever and ever…So one of the test questions was to write out in great detail the process of photosynthesis, paying special attention to the part when energy from the sun is transformed into chemical energy in a plant. I took a deep breath and began….”A photon of light from the sun is captured by a complex of light-absorbing pigments embedded in the thylakoid membrane of a chloroplast located in the cell of a leaf.” Somewhere in the middle of writing that sentence, I heard the poetry. I suddenly remembered why I was there in the first place and what all the work was for. The rest of the answer flowed out of me like the lyrics to a favorite song. It was one of the happiest moments EVER! The section on photosynthesis is over and we’re moving on to genetics, but that brief moment of deep and nerdy bliss in the middle of a test was all it took to put the fragments of ‘me’ back into a cohesive whole. It was a good day. I came home and planted seeds to celebrate and while I was out there, I took the following photo…a million photons of light showering my tulips with magic.

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Hello. I hope this brief post finds you all happy and well. Things have been a bit intense lately, at work and school and especially in my head. There is a team presentation due in class today and another test on Thursday. After that, maybe I can breathe a little bit for a couple of days and think about something else. In the meantime, I wanted to share some photos with you. These were taken in the canyon just North of our home on Sunday. It had been raining and the canyon was beautiful, all the leaves are turning too. Funny, Tom and I wouldn’t have gone on that hike, but I needed some photos of poison oak for the class presentation and it forced us out there. We were both so happy and vowed to go again this coming Sunday. Enjoy:

...Fall colors: Toxicodendron diversiloba (Poison Oak!)


It stopped raining just long enough for our hike, and the blue sky was beautiful.

...blue sky through a Sycamore tree


We found some juicy looking mushrooms growing on an oak tree.

...fungus on oak


I really really LOVE Sycamore trees.

...California Sycamore


This one is surround by a carpet of Poison Oak, which is also growing up the trunk – beautiful and very itchy.

...it really needs a tire swing.


Sometimes, when I’m in this canyon, I forget that it’s right next to the highway.

...a place to rest on the way home.

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“Every stress leaves an indelible scar, and the organism pays for its survival after a stressful situation by becoming a little older.” ~ Dr. Hans Selye

....weathered, yet beautiful...Muir Woods, California - Sept. 2011


Yesterday was an awesome day. There was a big test in Botany, which was my focus for the last week. We have been studying cellular respiration, and photosynthesis. They are very similar, with one being basically the reverse of the other. That kind of fooled me into thinking I was going to memorize it without a lot of pain. I was wrong. We’re talking about 100 different steps and half that number in atoms and molecules of this or that chemical, which dance around and punch each other out until they make molecules of yet more this-y and that-y chemicals. There are no generalities either. Every move, every chemical, needs dissecting and remembrance. There was no high school biology for me, so now that I’ve caught up a little, I find myself thoroughly humbled by the elegant and complicated brew that Mother Nature has managed to cook up. She’s a bad-ass and I wish she would have imprinted this knowledge on my gray matter. Indelibly. Well, it’s over for now and I can catch up on other parts of life. Like my new plant!

..Carnivorous Pitcher Plant...Nepenthis x mixta?


Sunday, Tom brought me a Pitcher Plant. A Nepenthes x mixta hybrid, most likely. These are among the easiest to care for in the carnivorous plant world. This is great because my last try at carnivorous plants did not end well. It was years ago, but I kept the book I bought for reference, since I knew I would someday have another one. The book, “The Savage Garden: Cultivating Carnivorous Plants” by Peter D’Amato is now on my reading list, especially the chapter pertaining to my species. It gets excellent reviews, and I kept it all these years for a reason.

...a pitcher full of digestive fluid. Bwahahahaha!


Carnivorous plants are nothing less than utterly awe-inspiring. Their response to living for millenia in crappy soil conditions, was to modify their leaves into all sorts of contraptions like pitchers, pipes, and snapping jaws. All of this so they can lure insects, and sometimes small rodents, kill them slowly, then live on the nutrients left by the decaying bodies. Plants don’t sit around and whine about the cards they were dealt or envy and get angry at the carrot living in a garden full of luscious, mineral-rich soil. They just take care of business. I have a serious respect for plants.

...Enter at your own risk. Insects, ye be warned!


“Ah, but we are splendid devils, aren’t we? “Hunters of the Savage Garden,” I said.
The Vampire Lestat
-Anne Rice

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The botany class I’m taking has introduced me to the microscopic world. The first time we looked at plant cells under a microscope, I could hardly contain my excitement. The other students were not jumping up and down so I tried to maintain my composure…mostly. There were suddenly a million things I wanted to bring to class so I could see what they looked like 100 times their normal size. A thimble sized ball of moss looked like a huge forest through one microscope, and I can see tiny green packets of chlorophyll floating in plant cells through the other one. It’s all very exciting and sometimes I get carried away with my eye glued to a lens and am the last person cleaning up after class. My professor seems patient and mildly amused, for now. So, when I came across this collection of prize-winning photomicrographs this morning, I thought I would share them with you. There are not very many of them, enough for a few minutes’ break in your day. There are even a couple of plant specimens, so you can see what I’ve been gazing at in class. Digital photography has come a long way and I can’t wait to see what they come up with next. Enjoy:

Tiny Grandeur at Live Science

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Yesterday was the first day of the new semester. Crashing the Chem152 class proved unsuccessful, so I’m sticking with the Botany class and lab. Next semester I will try to make up a few more credits with extra classes, but for now I can just focus on the subject which most interests me and pour all my scholarly love into the one class. Here’s our new textbook:

"Botany - Plants, People, and the Environment" by Linda Berg

I was also advised to order “Botany for Gardeners” by Brian Capon, which I did and can’t wait to get started on.

The syllabus mentions two field trips; one to Balboa Park and one to Florida Canyon, which is close by. We will be running around identifying plants. I cannot tell you how excited I am about the field trips! This class will build heavily upon the Botany class I took last semester, but with more hard science. We learned how to use microscopes yesterday and I got to look at plant slices on little glass slides. Let me just say that I’m totally in love already. Yay!

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The Cattails - Summer 2011


The fact that it’s already August blows me away. Now the countdown to the new semester begins. Time to get some school clothes lined up and things squared away that I will not want to deal with once classes start on the 23rd. Mostly, I just need to get everything in my universe simplified and organized so I have a smoother time of it all the way round.

Borage blossoms - Summer 2011

One of the more frivolous things I’m squaring away is my category section. Recently, I realized I have 96 categories. What the hell?! This is what happens when you’re in a hurry all the time and not thinking things through. What a jumbled and confusing mess my little blog is. So, some of the categories will be deleted or consolidated to make future entries and reference more expedient. I’d like to start putting more of the actual science I’m learning on here, so I might need the room for newer categories. This will give me an opportunity to glance back over all my entries to see what I’ve done because every time I post lately I get a sense that I’ve already said that exact thing or posted that exact photo…it’s disconcerting to say the least.

Bee with Evening Primose


There are also a lot of posts without categories or tags and I will be fixing those as well so I can look up information when I need it. The thing about this blog for me is that by the time I get to the posting part, I’ve already spent a bunch of time with the actual plant, doing my research, and playing with the photos – I have little time or energy left for the actual writing, categorizing, tagging, etc. and that will only get worse when school starts and I have more urgent priorities. So, I’m trying to consolidate the process…for example: my iPhone can double as the camera, the iPod, and also my research books on those days when I’m pressed for time. Now, I can even post on WordPress from an app on my phone (once I figure out how to do it) so I’m hoping all this modern technology is going to make my life easier. We’ll see.

The mesmerizing center of a Hollyhock bloom - Summer 2011


The classes coming up for me should be fun…I’m taking another Botany class and this one should have a lot more science than the last one. There is also a lab that goes with it so I can wait to see what that’s all about. The other class is Chemistry and also has a lab. I’m on the waiting list for that one so I don’t want to get too excited just yet. That’s all I handle this semester without taxing myself and my business. So, I’ve got to really enjoy the next 3 weeks of freedom as much as I can while working really hard to get everything caught up and finished so I can start the new semester with a clear head and an empty ‘in’ box. I can totally do that.

a tiny Arugula flower - Summer 2011

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“It turns out that an eerie type of chaos can lurk just behind a facade of order – and yet, deep inside the chaos lurks an even eerier type of order.” ~ Douglas Hofstadter

Queen Anne's Lace


My mind is full of Chaos today as I make a million decisions about the new semester. The school’s website list of available classes looks like Chaos to me. The rest of my college career stretches out forever ahead of me in dark and terrifying Chaos. I had Chaos for lunch. The Greeks respected the idea of Chaos so much they made her an awesome deity from which all things sprang. If that’s the case, then I just need to be patient with the ‘formless state’ of my thoughts and let Her Royal Highness Miss Chaos mold my ideas into something brilliant and creative and by Thursday when I register for classes I will know just what to do…Right?!

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