by Anniel 3/27/15
For the past few weeks I have felt the need to stand back, take a deep, cleansing breath and find some refreshment for my soul. Make of it what you will.
There are studies out recently about whether dogs actually “remember,” whether plants can be “trained,” whether trees communicate and whether some trees are really “communities” rather than single entities. I had played around with the idea that maybe man is not the only communicating being on the planet. The following stories are true, not even all the names have been changed to protect the innocent.
Once on a far away island called “Oahu”, my husband, Bear, discovered Sensitive plants, Mimosa pudica. The name pudica, is from Latin and means “shy, bashful or shrinking.” The plant is also called the Sleepy plant, or the Touch-Me-Not. In some ways the plants resemble a large type of fern, and they grow best in the shade of other tropical plants. When the compound leaves of the Sensitive Plant are touched or brushed against, they quickly fold inward from the tip up to the branch and then the whole branch may droop. The process is endlessly fascinating to watch.
Bear, being Bear, decided he would grow some of these plants at home in Alaska. Obtaining seeds and instructions he soon had about six or seven of the seedlings up. He pinched them back, as instructed, and set up lamps to give extra light in the winter months, watered and fed them, all, again, as instructed.
At the end of about six months he had managed to grow one little stem with two split leaves at the top. The two leaves would obediently fold up, but the plant was not the green and luxuriant item he was looking for. He continued to stubbornly nurture that plant. The stem finally reached a height of about 24 inches, always with the two little fern-like leaves at the top. Bear would try cutting the whole plant back, then out would pop the obligatory two leaves at the top and the stem grew tall again. Man against plant, and the plant was definitely winning.
One spring, about two years into the battle, thinking to help the plant thrive, I suggested Bear take its pot outside and put it in a shady spot around some other plants. He did so, leaving the care of the Mimosa pudica to natural rainfall and long daylight hours. When I knew we were getting close to freezing I brought the plant inside and placed it on the kitchen table. There it stood in all its glory, two little fronds at the top of one tall stem. Bear came into the kitchen and stood beside me as we both stared at it in dismay.
WARNING, I SWEAR THAT THE FOLLOWING SCENE OF EXTREME AND GRAPHIC VIOLENCE ACTUALLY TOOK PLACE. I SAW IT WITH MY OWN EYES.
Bear looked at the plant and very emphatically said, “I AM GOING TO MURDER THAT PLANT!”
He never once touched the plant, but instantaneously the two leaves at the top folded up and then the plant very carefully laid itself down on the table and died. I saw it with my very own eyes.
We now speak gently to our plants and play classical music for them.
All these many years later I just read what I wrote to Bear and asked if he still felt guilty. “Yup,” he said, “I still do.”
Note: A researcher has done a study using mimosa pudica in unbreakable pots where she dropped the plants a short distance onto a hard surface on a regular basis. The first days of dropping made the plants leaves retract, but after awhile the plants stopped being alarmed and the leaves remained open. At the end of her study she said, “Isn’t this learning?”
Have you ever wondered how much memory dogs have? Scientists claim dogs have no “real” memories but only conditioning. Do they get angry, full of angst and carry grudges? Or are they just the happy idiots cats think they are?
Our youngest son, David, and his family were living in Phoenix and got a dog for their young daughter. She was a 2 year old black lab-golden retriever mix they named Leah, and she was one of the best kid dogs in the world, but she quickly became almost exclusively David’s dog. She adored him. A year after David and and his wife got Leah they faced a move to Seattle and felt they could not keep the dog. Bear and I decided to fly down and bring the dog home with us. After five years here she still babysits the grand kids with love and zeal, even protecting the babies from their older siblings by wrapping her own body around the baby to ward off perceived danger.
She loves snow, running and snorkeling through it with delight and trying to catch snowballs in her mouth. We have decided she was made for snow country and would have been miserable in Phoenix, even if she never knew what she was missing. Every so often David would ask about her and wondered if she would remember him. I thought she would maybe have some vague memories, but not many.
About three years ago our children decided we needed to have a Family Reunion before our eldest son moved to Germany. David’s wife came up with their two kids first and the dog didn’t seem to remember her or the older girl. She was only only mildly interested in them, liking the baby better.
Then David got here. I heard the car arrive and looked at the dog just as David made one small sound outside. Leah heard his voice, instantly stood up stiff legged, the hair up and down her spine stood straight up on end and she began gnashing her teeth, swearing in dog language, and growling. She dashed down the stairs snarling and barking as David came through the door. She tried to keep him out and wouldn’t let him touch her. She followed him up the stairs and continued her tirade, letting him know how mad she was and that she blamed him for sending her away. There was no doubt why she was upset. David sat on the couch trying to soothe and pet her. She yelped and cussed him out for almost half an hour before she got it out of her system and then, when she was finished, she went over and spent the next half-hour licking him and letting him know she had forgiven him.
Yes, animals do get angry and remember those who abandon them. The studies that say they don’t remember are nuts.
Bear came in one summer about twelve years ago with the tiniest Alaskan tree frog in the palm of his hand. It was only about an inch long and the cutest thing. The children promptly christened him “Moses”, saying he had been found in the bulrushes. They dug out an old aquarium, lined it with moss and bracken, put in a dish of water big enough for the frog to submerge in, and caught bugs for him to eat. Bear finally had to supplement his food by buying tubes of live crickets. The crickets sometimes got big enough to jump out of the terrarium and would crawl under the heaters and chirp, so the kids had to screen the top of the terrarium. Moses sometimes croaked but the crickets made more noise than he did.
I got up early one morning, turned the radio on, and sat down to read. A Mormon Tabernacle Choir program of some sort came on, when suddenly I heard strange singing coming from somewhere else, singing like I had never heard before. Totally at a loss I sorted through all the sounds in the room. The Choir stopped singing, and so did the other. Then a new number started, and after a few seconds there came the other singing again. I was baffled until Bear came into the room and we finally traced the singing to Moses. His singing was joyous and happy.
He would only sing with the choir so we bought a Tabernacle Choir CD to keep his joy going. He sang as long as he lived.
We share our world with a myriad of strange and wonderful creations: animals, trees and plants, oceans, streams, the sun, moon and stars. The Lord has set them all here for our care and amazement, for our food and for our raiment. They are not to be worshipped in place of God, but to declare His glory and handiwork to us.