Sunday, February 27, 2011

My Favorite Naturalist

I subscribe to a weekly newsletter written by Jim Conrad.  His very interesting bio can be found at

In addition to his in depth information and profiles of birds, insects, animals and plants  I look forward to Jim's often searingly poignant personal essays.

This week's piece touched me on several levels, the sensual beauty in simple things, the process of aging and the sense of loss that we have all experienced.  Hoping you can relate to and enjoy it too I quote it here:

One daily job I look forward to is that of supplying a 
big bouquet of freshly picked leaf lettuce for the 
kitchen, such as that seen at

Picking the lettuce is a sensuous experience. Chilly, 
early-morning dew on the leaves wets my hands. A 
lettucy fragrance blossoms around me as I break off 
the leaves, feeling in my fingertips the faint but 
fatal snaps of petioles yielding to my force. As I 
return to the hut to wash the leaves I can't take my 
eyes off the visually pleasing essay before me, one 
commenting on the theme of simple but crinkly-edged 
glowings of yellow greenness contrasting with interior 
black shadowiness.

Sometimes it's hard to hand over the bouquet to the 
kitchen staff. By the time I get to the kitchen door 
I'm sort of bonded with that bunch of lettuce, even to 
the point of identifying with it.

For, when I'm picking the lettuce I'm doing that slow-
simmering kind of reflecting on life everyone does 
when engaged in non-thinking jobs. And the lettuce's 
radiant yellow-greenness emerging from silky, deep-
rooted blackness, and even its odor of bruised 
herbage, somehow strike me as exactly matching how 
I've been feeling lately -- not to mention how each 
leaf petiole gives that little snap when I pick it, 
like the thousand little losses one feels every day 
while aging, leaving behind hair, hearing, sight, 
strength, memory and more, and sometimes just plain 
giving up on this or that.

Looking at the lettuce in my hands is in many ways 
like taking a good look at my own feelings.

And, the destiny of that lettuce... I'll bet that most 
leaves get thrown away -- a bug-eaten hole on this 
one, that leaf a little too pale, this one with a 
small tear, that one with a brown spot, one after 
another just not good enough for a fancy restaurant. 
Well, if we're developing a metaphor here, at this 
point it would be easy to overdo it.

But, sometimes I do wish I knew what happens to what I 
bring to the kitchen door. I wonder what the use is of 
such fragile, translucing, yellow-green, crushed-
herbage, baroque-fringed gifts... if the one you're 
giving them to mostly just throws them away.


Enjoy your day

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