THE LIFE OF BOTANY

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I’m looking at this big fat tome that arrived from the University of Minnesota Extension, Master Gardener Core Class, straightening out the tabs which became scrunched in the mailing bag and wondering if Trees and Shrubs, Soils, Weed Management, even Diagnostics, would be more user friendly than Botany?

I breezed through (well, carefully read through) the first section on the “parts of plants” – leaves, stems, roots, flowers, etc. I “got” the difference between pinnately and palmately compound. I knew the distinction between bulbs and corms. I understood that too little light will result in a long internode causing a spindly stem. I even grasped the difference between monocots and dicots. But when I got to photosynthesis, respiration and transpiration I was hopelessly lost.

I don’t know if it has something to do with an aging brain, if this specific      material is badly written, or if botany is just not my area of expertise. It shouldn’t be a deep point of quandary considering it is all about providing and using food, water and nutrients. Something we do every day thanks to my personal chef.

My Webster’s New World says that botany is “the science that deals with plants, their life, structure, growth, classification; the plant life of an area; the life cycle of a plant or plant group.”

Life, structure and growth. Just take that phrase. Think about it. If I dare to examine my own provenance and being and path, I sometimes feel overwhelmed. Gob-smacked. Not ready to dig and delve into the mysteries and reasons for my existence. Yes. Leave it to Linnaeus and Aristotle. Let them figure it out.

But will they? For me? They’re just ancient names that did something to procure their place in the history books. After a lifetime (74 years now) of ambling through a physical process I took for granted, I have arrived at that state in time when one begins to wonder why, and was it worth it? And beyond that – how fleeting it all became? Endless for many years and then suddenly, stuff-and-nonsense, ethereal, up in smoke.

All the more reason to revel in the scent of tilapia tacos wafting up from downstairs. The familiar life, the beloved structure, the on-going growth.

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