Friday, December 01, 2006

The Living Clock

Book Review

The Living Clock, The Orchestrator of Biological Rhythms, by John D. Palmer, published by Oxford University 2002.

Gardeners and nature enthusiasts will find lots of interesting and entertaining reading in the initial chapters. The author is a scientist who knows how to write and has a sense of humor. I especially enjoyed chapter 1, which discussed rhythms found in several pretty amazing single celled creatures. This discussion is picked back up again in chapter 5. Chapter 8 will fascinate gardeners with very interesting findings about plant movement. Day and night length triggers for plant growth and flowering is also discussed. You may actually be surprised about what has been found.

There are chapters devoted to human concerns, such as jet lag. Medications and lab tests that work better at different times of day are also discussed, as well as basic human rhythms. Some of the research results explored are not commonly reported and were definitely new information to me.

Palmer goes on, in a few more chapters, to talk about rhythms in animals and in shore dwellers. It is all quite fascinating and his sense of humor is refreshing. But the honeymoon is over at the end of chapter 8.

Chapter 9 made me think of young bullies I knew as a child. You know the ones I am talking about. Those deranged children that torture small animals for their own pleasure and to intimidate and traumatize those around them. “Hey, let’s shove a firecracker down this snake’s throat and then light the fuse, so we can see what will happen.” When children torture animals it is a red flag. Many serial murders, kidnapers, and abusers started out as children who tortured animals.

I guess the better adjusted animal tormenters grow up to be scientists. Palmer in the same articulate and humorous manner, goes on to describe the all grown up and degreed version of “Hey, let’s shove a firecracker down this snakes throat and then light the fuse, so we can see what will happen.” Except it plays out more like, “Hey, lets cut through some brain tissue of this living creature and see what happens.” I was rather horrified at his description of some animals he kept alive in the lab for what was probably a few months, and after they had been mutilated and left in a condition that would make it very difficult to survive the oceans tide and surf, he released them to those very conditions. And he joked about it. Don’t read chapter 9 before bed. Better yet, don’t read chapter 9 at all. And don’t buy this book. This guy doesn’t deserve royalties, and you certainly don’t need it lying around where young children can find it. (I checked it out at the library – if you want to read it you can too.)

Lately I have been feeling pretty ambivalent about my Native Heritage. In fact I could be quoted as saying “I don’t want to be Indian anymore.” (My friends just laughed at me, but I am not sure I was joking.) But this book put a different focus on my thoughts. I was raised with the idea of the Great Mystery. The idea that some things are just not meant to be understood. Creation is sacred, all around us are our relatives, and all living things deserve respect. I was taught as a very young child to learn from nature by observation, that deep patient observation brought wisdom and connection. I am a work in progress. (Yes, even at 50.) But as I move towards belonging to an inter-racial community of thought, I am pretty dang sure I will carry these basic teachings with me.

Science has become the new main stream religion in many ways. Science tends to get what it wants, above and beyond what any other values may dictate. But what is science really? Maybe you ought to read chapter 9 after all. Just in case you haven’t realized how ugly science can be.

Now I need to go purge my soul by getting my hands in the soil.

Other Book Reviews:

The Literary Garden

We Didn’t Have Much, But We Sure Had Plenty

Gardens in the Dunes

Book Mentions:

The Principles of Gardening

The Emergence of Agriculture

Save Your Own Seed

1 comment:

Harvest said...

This is just a test. I recieved an e-mail from someone saying they couldn't post a comment - so I am giving it a try myself