Category: Musings

A tribute

To my dear Pharaoh.

I was sorting through some papers over the weekend and I came across something that I wrote on the 14th September, 2007.

Let me explain.

2007 was a very important year for me. I had barely got over the fact that my ex-wife had walked out on me the previous December 20th but had been given the revelation that my fear of rejection had been brought into my conscious state after having been unconscious for 50 years. This was a fantastic outcome from just one visit to a local psychotherapist.

I had been out to California in the summer to see Dan. His sister, Suzanne, had called by and invited me to come to Mexico for Christmas. I was unaware that this trip to Mexico was to change my life for the better in every imaginable way!

Anyway, back to my writings.

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I am your dog and have something I would love to whisper in your ear. I know that you humans lead very busy lives. Some have to work, some have children to raise, some have to do this alone. It always seems like you are running here and there, often too fast, never noticing the truly grand things in life.

Look down at me now. While you sit at your computer. See the way my dark, brown eyes look at yours.

You smile at me. I see love in your eyes. What do you see in mine? Do you see a spirit? A soul inside who loves you as no other could in the world? A spirit that would forgive all trespasses of prior wrong doing for just a single moment of moment of your time. That is al I ask. To slow down, if even for a few minutes, to be with me.

So many times you are saddened by others of my kind passing on.

Sometimes we die young and oh so quickly, so suddenly that it wrenches your heart out of your throat. Sometimes, we age slowly before your eyes that you may not even seem to know until the very end, when we look at you with grizzled muzzles and cataract-clouded eyes. Still the love is always there even we must take that last, long sleep dreaming of running free in a distant, open land.

I may not be here tomorrow. I may not be here next week. Someday you will shed the water from your eyes, that humans have when the grief fills their souls, and you will mourn the loss of just ‘one more day’ with me. Because I love you so, this future sorrow even now touches my spirit and grieves me. I read you in so many ways that you cannot even start to contemplate.

We have now together. So come and sit next to me here on the floor and look deep into my eyes. What do you see? Do you see how if you look deeply at me we can talk, you and I, heart to heart. Come not to me as my owner but as a fellow living soul. Stroke my fur and let us look deep into the other’s eyes and talk with our hearts.

I may tell you something about the fun of working the scents in the woods where you and I go. Or I may tell you something profound about myself or how we dogs see life in general. I know you decided to have me in your life because you wanted a soul to share things with. I know how much you have cared for me and always stood up for me even when others have been against me. That gift from you has been very precious to me. I know too that you have been through troubled times and I have been there to guard you, to protect you and to be there always for you. I am very different to you but here I am. I am your dog but just as alive as you.

I feel emotion. I feel physical senses. I can revel in the differences of our spirits and our souls. I do not think of you as a dog on two feet; I know what you are. You are human, in all your quirkiness, and I love you still.

So, come and sit with me. Enter my world and let time slow down if only for a few minutes. Look deep into my eyes and whisper in my ears. Speak with your heart and I will know your true self. We may not have tomorrow but we do have now.

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The anniversary of Pharaoh’s death in 2017 in this Friday, June 19th. He is still missed badly.

We are all connected!

Thank you Patrice Ayme for sharing this.

I can’t remember when I first came to know Patrice Ayme; it was quite a few years ago. I followed him for years and then had to take a break simply because there weren’t enough hours in the day! Not because I disliked what he was writing – no siree!

He is a most prolific author. Pop into Patrice Ayme’s Thoughts and have a browse around.

Anyway, Patrice recently forwarded me an article that rightly deserved much attention. Here it is:

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Saving The Animals, Thus Ourselves

Animals die in great numbers trying to cross human transportation systems.

When one provides the animals with crossings, they rush to use them (so are used even before they are finished, by a Noah’s ark of species).

Respecting nature is not just about the beauty and naturalness it provides us with, it is about respecting how we became who we are, at our best. We have to learn to share the planet with animals. Not just because we are smart, but also because they are smart and our smarts evolved from interacting with their smarts. So interacting with wild animals is smart all around… and it has made our species smarter! Wildlife interaction is how we evolved our smarts.

Not book smarts, but the deepest smarts.

Hence by respecting animals, we respect how we became human… and it keeps on being human to do so. Economy means managing the house, in particular, managing earth, which is our common house. As the greenhouse heating proceeds at an accelerating pace, we then have to reserve an increasing part of our economic activity to save the animals by helping them to cope with the changes we have brought.

Morality comes from the mores, the old ways, the ways which perdured, and thus, insure survival. Having a natural environment, full of animals, is the ultimate morality. If we can’t save them, how can we learn to save ourselves?

So it is not just smart and economic to save the animals, but also moral. The money engaged so far is quite small. But the price of an unbalanced environment tottering towards ruin, is incomparably higher. For a nice article with nice videos of animals using their smarts crossing freeways and roads, consider:

As a badger digs, say for ground squirrels whose burrows have many exits, could not it be that the coyote would seize a fleeing squirrel, and share the meal? This is basic economics and strategy, and it turns out that coyotes and badgers have figured out that behavior, and cooperate together.

The next question would be this: do the individuals concerned figure it out by themselves, as cephalopods do, or is the behavior culturally instigated, namely both badgers and coyotes learn elements of interspecific cooperation from teaching by their elders? I believe the latter.

After all, I trained the (wild) nesting birds on my balcony to benignantly ignore my weird and intrusive ways … which thus had to learn to be a bit more respectful than they usually are. But of course these ways tend to incite the red tail hawks to not land on this particular balcony on a determined culinary mission (as they have been seen doing…) And the birds know this [1].

Saving the animals is first of all about saving us… Not just our sense of beauty.

Patrice Ayme

[1] Hummingbirds set their nests below hawks’ nests, as this protects them from gays. Local hawks do attack nests of birds who are big enough (like gays, crows, etc). And I have seen them pass 10 feet from me, eyeing me suspiciously… Their feathers can be two feet long…

See this: https://www.audubon.org/news/why-hawk-hummingbirds-best-friend

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We are all connected as I said in the title to today’s post.

The only way we are going to survive as a species on this planet is for all of us to recognise this fundamental law of nature. Or should I say this fundamental law of Nature!

It is a little over fifty years since the inaugural celebration of the first Earth Day; on the 22nd April, 1970. In other words we are just over halfway through if one imagines the celebration of the one hundredth Earth Day: 22nd April, 2070. In 1970 the planet was home to 3.7 billion people. Today there are nearly 8 billion people. But more than that these 8 billion people are living to an average of 72 years, up from 59 years in 50 years.

Our failure to address climate change is harming the planet and all the species, including us humans, who live on Planet Earth. I shall be dead by 2070 and also a great many of my fellow humans. But for all those born in the year 2000 and later it is increasingly going to become the number one priority: Saving the planet from a total catastrophe!

We don’t have long!

Picture Parade Three Hundred and Ninety

That total lunar eclipse!

This stunning photograph was taken by Roger Barnett who describes himself as a former semi-pro ski photographer now shooting wildlife, landscapes and astro….. Retired, mostly..arborist/tree service owner.

It is republished with Roger’s permission.

It was seen on the blog site Ugly Hedgehog and I also include this text from ‘kenpic’:

Often called the “flower moon,” the May full moon is nearly upon us. Earth’s nearest neighbor will reach the full stage early May 26, meaning it will appear full both Tuesday and Wednesday nights. The moon’s closest monthly approach to Earth happens at the same time, making the flower moon a supermoon, as well.

For early risers, there’s another astronomical treat in store: This year’s only total lunar eclipse happens in the hours before sunrise May 26. When Earth’s shadow begins to cover it, Luna often takes on a reddish tint, leading to the name “blood moon” for those rare times when a lunar eclipse aligns with a full moon.

Plus, two photographs to close with. Firstly, this image from Unsplash!

landscape photo of mountains under starry sky at nighttime

We live on a very beautiful planet.

Lastly, this photograph of a dog howling at the moon. Taken from DogWalls! (And hopefully I’m alright with the copyright!)

What a fantastic image!

Another beautiful poem

Again by Bela Johnson

You don’t want me waffling on so I’m going straight over to Bela’s poem. It is called River Thoughts and was published on Bela’s website on the 24th May, 2021. With Bela’s permission, I should add!

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River Thoughts

The river thunders, to no applause
in particular; rolls along, rippling
and eddying without thought
or expectation of feedback,
though I can’t help but think
all of nature thrives under
an appreciative gaze;

We once watched endangered
river otters cavorting in plain sight
just under the bridge of a much
larger river, we told no one;
fishermen dislike that they are forced
to share with these sleek creatures
we thought dolphins, when first
they caught our eyes,
out of context, having come
from Hawaii only recently;

Our smaller Vallecitos river is
magnificent in its own right,
rushing lifeblood to this struggling
ranching community, altitude
too high to receive much precipitation
in liquid form, preferring the snows
of winter, and those have been
in shortfall for years now, water levels
everywhere having dropped
precipitously, and with the decline
comes the invariable unrest
in people dependent on the bounty
of the land;

And so this rainy day is particularly
welcomed while the dampness
is in marked contrast to the bone dry
of the region, and as a fire blazes
in the hearth, ranch dogs lie fidgety
like grammar school children forced
inside for recess in inclement weather.

Mr. Peanut awaits what’s next!

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Perfect!

Nostalgia!

Dan sent me a wonderful photo a couple of days ago!

His covering email also included:

Here was my favourite car of all time. A 1957 Ford hard-top convertible. 312 cu. in. V8 rebuilt with 3/4 race cam and Holly 950 com 4 barrel carb. Reverse traction masters and front lift. Borg-Warner T-10 4 speed with reverse lock out.

Dan Gomez

Dan went on to add: Tana our wonderful Silver Grey German Shepherd and yes, that’s little bro Chris Gomez at 12 or 13. I was 19 and in Pasadena City College just before going to Switzerland to study French (and ski!) and then into the Navy during the Vietnam War.

Fifty-seven years ago!

How time flies.

A Reunion to break one’s heart.

Tyler is reunited with his dog.

I have a folder where I put items that I think would make a good post. I have 1,139 items at present. Now many of them have been shared with you but by no means all of them. They are a constant reminder of the many ways in which the dog has, and is, the perfect companion for us humans.

Take this story that was published in The Dodo in March.

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This Boy’s Reunion With His Dog Will Totally Make Your Day

They never thought they’d see each other again ❤️

By Lily Feinn, Published on the 26th March, 2021

Earlier this month, a 10-year-old boy named Tyler Bandy got the best present he could ask for. As he walked in the door, he was immediately overwhelmed by love and kisses from an old friend — his dog, Bruiser.

STORYFUL/JAMIE BANDY

In January, Bruiser, a gray and white pit bull, was on a walk when he ran after a rabbit and got lost.

The Bandy family did everything they could to try and locate Bruiser. They posted fliers around their Florida neighborhood, posted on Facebook, put out old clothes in front of their home so he could smell them and repeatedly checked their local animal control.

FACEBOOK/JAMIE BANDY

But as the weeks passed and no leads were found, the family was “starting to lose hope,” according to Tyler’s mom, Jamie Bandy.“

That’s when the phone rang,” the Highlands County Sheriff’s Office wrote on Facebook. “Turns out their dog had been picked up by somebody on their way to Highlands County and, after a couple of months, it wound up in the hands of our animal services folks.”

STORYFUL/JAMIE BANDY

A staff member at animal services thought the pup looked familiar and, after some digging on social media, she found out why. Bruiser was returned to his parents, but they kept his arrival secret so that they could surprise Tyler.

“To say Bruiser had a joyous homecoming would be putting it lightly,” the Highlands County Sheriff’s Office said. 

You can watch the emotional reunion here:

Tyler was shocked when he came home and saw Bruiser, and both were overjoyed. Tyler immediately started sobbing and hugging his best friend, while Bruiser showered him with licks, wagging his tail as hard as possible.

“[Tyler] was simply overcome when his parents surprised him with his best friend,” the Highlands County Sheriff’s Office said. “The two have been inseparable since.”

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Just another account of a young boy reunited with his dog. But then so much more than that. In this young man’s mind he had lost the one dear creature in his life. Perhaps made worse because Bruiser just disappeared one day. It was what we adults call unfinished business.

Then after a number of weeks fate stepped in and Bruiser was returned and Bruiser and Tyler were reunited. I am going to repeat that sentence towards the end of the piece which shows the response of Bruiser and Tyler. It just doesn’t get any better. “Tyler immediately started sobbing and hugging his best friend, while Bruiser showered him with licks, wagging his tail as hard as possible.”

Beautiful!

What goes around comes around!

Another account of dogs bonding with humans.

Chernobyl is a name that anyone born before, say, 1970 will associate with a terrible nuclear accident in Russia.

As Wikipedia put it:

The Chernobyl disaster was a nuclear accident that occurred on Saturday 26 April 1986, at the No. 4 reactor in the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, near the city of Pripyat in the north of the Ukrainian SSR in the Soviet Union. It is considered the worst nuclear disaster in history both in terms of cost and casualties, and is one of only two nuclear energy accidents rated at seven—the maximum severity—on the International Nuclear Event Scale, the other being the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster in Japan. The initial emergency response, together with later decontamination of the environment, ultimately involved more than 500,000 personnel and cost an estimated 18 billion Soviet rubles—roughly US$68 billion in 2019, adjusted for inflation.

But recently BBC Future spoke of the bond that the guards and the abandoned dogs made.

Read it below: (Unfortunately you will have to go here to view the stunning photographs because the BBC prevents them being republished! But it is still a very interesting article.)

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The guards caring for Chernobyl’s abandoned dogs

The descendants of pets abandoned by those fleeing the Chernobyl disaster are now striking up a curious relationship with humans charged with guarding the contaminated area.

It wasn’t long after he arrived in the irradiated landscape of the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone that Bogdan realised his new job came with some unexpected companions. From his first days as a checkpoint guard in Chernobyl, he has shared the place with a pack of dogs.

Bogdan (not his real name) is now in his second year of working in the zone and has got to know the dogs well. Some have names, some don’t. Some stay nearby, others remain detached – they come and go as they please. Bogdan and the other guards feed them, offer them shelter, and occasionally give them medical care. They bury them when they die.

All the dogs are, in a sense, refugees of the 1986 disaster in which Reactor No. 4 at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant exploded. In the aftermath, tens of thousands of people were evacuated from the Ukrainian city of Pripyat. They were told to leave their pets behind. (Read more about the long-term toll of the Chernobyl disaster.)

Soviet soldiers shot many of the abandoned animals in an effort to prevent the spread of contamination. But, undoubtedly, some of the animals hid and survived. Thirty-five years later, hundreds of stray dogs now roam the 2,600km (1,000 sq mile) Exclusion Zone put in place to restrict human traffic in and out of the area. Nobody knows which of the dogs are directly descended from stranded pets, and which may have wandered into the zone from elsewhere. But they are all dogs of the zone now.

Their lives are perilous. They are at risk from radioactive contamination, wolf attacks, wildfires and starvation, among other threats. The dogs’ average lifespan is just five years, according to the Clean Futures Fund, a non-governmental organisation that monitors and provides care for dogs living within the Exclusion Zone.

That dogs inhabit this ruined place is well known – some of them have even become minor celebrities on social media. Clean Futures Fund co-founder Lucas Hixson, who gave up a research career to look after the animals, offers virtual tours of the Exclusion Zone featuring the dogs.

But less is known about the local workers who interact with these canines on a daily basis.

Jonathon Turnbull, a PhD candidate in geography at the University of Cambridge, realised it might be worth collecting these people’s stories.

“If I wanted to know the dogs,” he says, “I needed to go to the people who know them best – and that was the guards.”

What he discovered is a heart-warming story of the guards’ relationship with the animals they encounter in this abandoned environment – a tale that provides insights into the deep bond between humans and dogs.

The guards sometimes go to the trouble of helping the dogs by pulling out ticks embedded in their skin, or by giving them rabies injections

For instance, the guards have given several of the dogs nicknames. According to Turnbull, there’s Alpha, whose name refers to a type of radiation, and Tarzan, a dog well-known to Chernobyl tourists, who can do tricks on command and who lives near the famous Duga radar installation built by the Soviets. Then there is Sausage – a short, fat dog that likes to warm herself in the winter by lying on heating pipes. These pipes serve one of the buildings used by workers in the Exclusion Zone who are part of ongoing efforts to decommission and decontaminate the ruined power plant.

Access to the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone requires a permit, so guards are tasked with controlling checkpoints on roads in and out of the area. People who dodge these checkpoints to trespass in the Exclusion Zone are known as “stalkers”. Guards report them to the police.

When Turnbull, who lives in Ukraine’s capital Kyiv, started making regular visits to the zone, he met Bogdan, and other checkpoint guards. They were reluctant to talk at first so he had to win them over. Then he offered them to chance to take part in his research, which he says was a “turning point”. His idea was to give the guards disposable cameras and ask them to take pictures of the dogs – not posed portraits but scenes of everyday life. The guards only had one other request – “please, please – bring food for the dogs”. So Turnbull did.

The photos taken by the guards revealed how much they had developed companionships with the wandering dogs of the Exclusion Zone.

Turnbull published some of the resulting images and material from interviews with the guards in a paper in December. More recently, he interviewed one of the study participants again on behalf of BBC Future. The guard in question has asked not to be identified to avoid disciplinary action at work, so we refer to him here by the pseudonym “Bogdan”.

When Bogdan walks around the abandoned streets of the zone to check for stalkers, the dogs happily accompany him, he says. They always appear eager to see whether he, or a passing tourist, might be carrying food. Should a companion dog get distracted or run off to chase an animal, it always eventually returns to Bogdan, he adds.

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The loyalty goes both ways. Turnbull says the guards sometimes go to the trouble of helping the dogs by pulling out ticks embedded in their skin, or by giving them rabies injections.

Wolves, dogs and other animals could in theory carry radioactive contamination, or genetic mutations potentially passed on by breeding, to places outside the Exclusion Zone

Monitoring who comes and goes from the Exclusion Zone sometimes makes for a dull occupation. But there are always dogs nearby.

At some checkpoints, the guards have more or less adopted some of the animals. They feed them and give them shelter. But not all are so tame. During his research, one guard told Turnbull, “We can’t inject Arka because she bites.”

Another participant spoke of one dog that was even more difficult to approach. It refuses to be touched at all. “You should just give her a pan [of food] and go. She waits until you leave and then she eats,” the guard explained.

The dogs sometimes bark at strangers on first sight, that’s their nature, says Bogdan. But so long as they don’t feel threatened, they sometimes calm down and wag their tails. Occasionally it even seems as though they’re smiling, he adds.

Generally, visitors to Chernobyl are advised not to touch the dogs, for fear that the animals may be carrying radioactive dust. It’s impossible to know where the dogs roam and some parts of the Exclusion Zone are more contaminated than others.

There is wildlife living in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone besides dogs. In 2016, Sarah Webster, a US government wildlife biologist who was working at the University of Georgia at the time, and colleagues published a paper in which they revealed how mammals, from wolves to boars and red foxes, had colonised the Exclusion Zone. Camera trap data showed that the animals’ numbers were not noticeably lower in those areas where radioactive contamination is higher.

Animals living in the Exclusion Zone are not necessarily confined there. A later studyby Webster and colleagues, published in 2018, detailed the movements of a wolf tagged with a GPS device. It travelled 369km (229 miles) from its home range in the zone, taking a long arc to the south-east, then north-east again, eventually entering Russia.

Wolves, dogs and other animals could in theory carry radioactive contamination, or genetic mutations potentially passed on by breeding, to places outside the Exclusion Zone.

“We know it’s happening but we don’t understand the extent or the magnitude,” says Webster.

Turnbull says the guards do not generally worry about radiation, though they might occasionally use dosimeters to check a dog over.

It actually seems as though the dogs, through the companionship they offer, end up reassuring those who interact with them regularly, says Greger Larson, an archaeologist who studies animal domestication at the University of Oxford and who was not involved in Turnbull’s research.

“They’re kind of putting themselves in the shoes of the dogs,” he suggests, referring to the guards. “If the dog is fine, that means you’re fine.”

But in truth, this may only be a false sense of security.

“It’s an uncanny environment,” notes Turnbull. “You can’t see the danger. You’re constantly aware that it might be there but everything looks normal.”

Despite the fact that the dogs could pose a risk in terms of radioactivity, guards like Bogdan instead emphasise the benefits of having them around. For example, he claims to know dogs that bark in noticeably different ways depending on what they have spotted in the distance – a human stranger, a vehicle, a wild animal. Because of these helpful warning signals, Bogdan thinks of the dogs as “assistants”.

What’s happening in the Exclusion Zone is an echo of interactions with dogs that are known to have occurred within human civilisations for thousands of years, says Larson.

“We find this for the last 15,000 years or more, this is what people do, they make very close associations with not just dogs but a lot of domestic animals […] to sort of say, ‘this is our attachment to the landscape’,” he explains.

All over the world, there are dogs that inhabit a similar, in-between state – not quite fully domesticated, not quite fully wild. These are the feral dogs that roam cities and industrial areas looking for food, the ones that may become to some extent adopted by people but still wouldn’t be considered pets.

Chernobyl’s dogs also live in this sort of space, on the edge of domestication, but there is a difference argues Webster, who has participated in a separate study of Turnbull’s in the past.

“The Exclusion Zone is very different in that it’s abandoned by humans,” she says. “The only people in that landscape on a day-to-day basis, really, are the guards.” As such, the dogs’ opportunities for befriending humans are very limited.

While the outside world remains fascinated by the dogs, and their story, for many guards the connection runs much deeper. Bogdan says he is often asked why the dogs ought to be allowed to stay in the Exclusion Zone. “They give us joy,” he replies. “For me personally, this is a kind of symbol of the continuation of life in this radioactive, post-apocalyptic world.”

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What is so fascinating is that this interaction between the dogs and the people is an echo of the first interaction between hunter/gatherers and wolves of, perhaps, 25,000 years ago or more. And the guards of today and the dogs, whom Larson calls his assistants, are perfectly bonded.

It just goes to show that ‘what goes around comes around’!

It’s not just us who are social

How about plants!

Yes, a deeply interesting post from The Conversation website shows how plants thrive by communicating and much more.

Now this post doesn’t have a dog within sniffing distance but I still wanted to share it with you.

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Plants thrive in a complex world by communicating, sharing resources and transforming their environments

April 14, 2021. 

By Beronda L. Montgomery

Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology & Microbiology and Molecular Genetics; Interim Assistant Vice President of Research & Innovation, Michigan State University.

As a species, humans are wired to collaborate. That’s why lockdowns and remote work have felt difficult for many of us during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

For other living organisms, social distancing comes more naturally. I am a plant scientist and have spent years studying how light cues affect plants, from the very beginning of a plant’s life cycle – the germination of seeds – all the way through to leaf drop or death. In my new book, “Lessons from Plants,” I explore what we can learn from the environmental tuning of plant behaviors. 

One key takeaway is that plants have the ability to develop interdependence, but also to avoid it when being connected could be damaging. Generally, plants are constantly communicating and engaged with other organisms in their ecosystems. But when these ongoing connections threaten to cause more harm than good, plants can exhibit a form of social distancing.

The power of connection and interdependence

When conditions are good, most plants are networkers. The vast majority of plants have fungi that live on or within their roots. Together, the fungi and roots form structures known as mycorrhizae, which resemble a netlike web.

Mycorrhizae increase their host plants’ ability to absorb water and nutrients, such as nitrogen and phosphate, through their roots. In return, the plants share sugars that they produce through photosynthesis with their fungal partners. Thus, the fungi and host plants are powerfully interconnected, and depend on one another to survive and thrive. 

Mycorrhizal connections can link multiple plants in a functioning network. When plants produce more sugars than they need, they can share them via this interconnected root-fungal network. By doing so, they ensure that all plants in the community have access to the energy they need to support their growth.

Put another way, these connections extend beyond a single host plant and its fungal partner. They create communitywide relationships and interdependent networks of plants and fungi. Factors in the external environment, such as the amount of light available for photosynthesis and the composition of soil around the plants, fine-tune the connections in these networks.

Mycorrhizhae also serve as communication channels. Scientists have documented that plants pass defensive chemicals, such as substances that promote resistance against insect pests, to other plants via fungal networks. These connections also allow a plant that has been attacked by aphids or other such pests to signal to neighboring plants to preemptively activate their own defense responses.

Mycorrhizhae are living communities of plant roots and fungi that benefit mutually from their relationship.

When it’s safer to keep your distance

Sharing resources or information that helps other plants ward off danger is a valuable example of the power of connectedness and interdependence in plant ecosystems. Sometimes, however, surviving requires plants to disconnect. 

When environmental cues such as light or nutrients become scarce enough that a host plant can produce enough sugars through photosynthesis to support only its own growth, staying actively interconnected in a larger community network could be dangerous. Under such conditions, the host plant would lose more from sharing limited sugar supplies than it would gain from the network in water and nutrients. 

At times like these, plants can limit mycorrhizal connections and development by restricting how many materials they exchange with their fungal partners and avoiding making new connections. This is a form of physical distancing that protects the plants’ ability to support themselves when they have limited energy supplies so they can survive for the long term. 

When conditions improve, plants can resume sharing with their fungal partners and establish additional connections and interdependence. Once again, they can benefit from sharing resources and information about the ecosystem with their extended plant and fungal communities.

Recognizing kin and collaboration

Social distancing isn’t the only trick plants use to make their way in the world. They also recognize related plants and tune their abilities to share or compete accordingly. When the plants that are interconnected by a fungal network are close genetic relatives, they share more sugars with the fungi in that network than they do when the other plants are more distantly related.

Prioritizing kin may feel highly familiar to us. Humans, like other biological organisms, often actively contribute to help our kin survive. People sometimes speak of this as working to ensure that the “family name” will live on. For plants, supporting relatives is a way to ensure they carry on their genes. 

Plants can also transform aspects of their environment to better support their growth. Sometimes essential nutrients that are present in soil are “locked up” in a form that plants can’t absorb: For example, iron can become bound up with other chemicals in forms very similar to rust. When this happens, plants can excrete compounds from their roots that essentially dissolve these nutrients into a form that the plants can readily use

Plants can transform their environments in this way either individually or collectively. Plant roots can grow in the same direction, in a collaborative process known as swarming that is similar to bee swarms or bird flocks. Such swarming of roots enables the plants to release a lot of chemicals in a particular soil region, which frees up more nutrients for the plants’ use.

Trees use fungal networks to send one another messages – and some species hijack the system to sabotage their rivals.

Better together

Behaviors like mycorrhizal symbiosis, kin recognition and collaborative environmental transformation suggest that overall, plants are better together. By staying in tune with their external environment, plants can determine when working together and fostering interdependence is better than going it alone. 

When I reflect on these tunable connections and interdependence between plants and fungi, I draw constant inspiration – especially during this pandemic year. As we make our way in a constantly changing world, plants offer all kinds of lessons for humans about independence, interdependence and supporting each other.

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I agree with Professor Montgomery. Who would have though it! Plants do indeed offer strong social lessons for us humans. Maybe that explains why trees, especially trees, have such a profound, beautiful appeal to yours truly as well as many other people.

Going to close with a photograph taken of our trees and pond here at home.

They are communicating!

A few of Jean’s paintings

That came via the sale of Jean’s bike.

Yesterday we drove down to Phoenix, Oregon to deliver the Sun Tricycle to the new owners. Daniel and Cherie were a delightful couple, albeit more my age than younger. But they had been through one heck of a disaster. Because last year they were both asked to flee the fires with very little notice and only recently had they found a new home and were still settling in.

Daniel rides his trike and wanted to get one for Cherie. We were delighted with the sale and we hope we all will see each other in the near future.

Anyway, Daniel is quite an artist and Jean mentioned she used to paint before the Parkinson’s tremor made it much more difficult. But Daniel insisted on photographs being taken of a few of Jean’s paintings and sent to them via email.

Here they are.

Sammy
Victor

Pharaoh
Ben fishing
Ben fishing
Mariachis

Just thought they made a nice change!

Serendipity

Funny how things fall out!

My son, Alex, recently sent me a link to a blog he had come across. It was to a website called https://aircooledbug.co.uk

It was about Andrew Coyne who with his wife, Renée, had come across to America in order to have an operation on his dog, Alfred. It was very moving. I then made contact with Andrew and asked him if I could have permission to republish. It was granted. Furthermore, Andrew went on to say:

Hi Paul,

The only place we could find to perform surgery and give him immunotherapy was the US. Getting to the US a massive challenge as the lock down restrictions and freedom of movement issues implemented by governments here and in the EU stopped us being able to travel. Hence chartering a private jet direct to New York.

Alfred is currently doing well with us here in the US and will not return to the UK. We will move here with him permanently and make our home in the one place that gave him a chance. 

Kind regards,
Anthony

So I am going to devote my next two posts to republishing two posts from Andrew’s blog. The first today is Coming to America.

ooOOoo

Coming to America

April 3, 2021 By Mr Coyne

The relief that knowing we would travel brought was unmeasurable. Private jets don’t come cheap, even discounted empty legs, but in this instance it didn’t matter. It was a welcome solution.

Up until the world was introduced to Covid-19, I had been a regular traveller to the US both with Renée who’s American, and on business as thinkerdoer work with a lot of US companies. I had an ESTA in place and checked it was still valid on Monday after we decided to take the flight to NYC.  On Tuesday morning it was pulled! I’m still not sure why but it would seem to be a response from the Biden Administration to control the recently announced ‘UK variant’. Mark at Charter-A and his team scrambled to get clearance for me from the US using our marriage certificate from Cornwall to prove I was a spouse of a US citizen and this initially appeared to satisfy them and clearance given.

The most unusual thing I have ever seen at airport security

On Wednesday morning we set off to Stansted. Somewhere on the M11 the phone rang, it was Mark saying the US had pulled my clearance again due to me visiting ‘red list’ countries in the last few months. Utter nonsense, and I explained the last place I had travelled was the US just prior to the lockdown when I visited North Dakota and Arizona. I even volunteered my bank statements to prove my case. We waited at the Inflite Executive Jet Centre at Stansted with our luggage already loaded for clearance. Eventually the US backed down and removed their marker, but this now meant reapplying for entry. The decision was made to leave the jet on the tarmac overnight and return the following day to give us time to organise it. Partly this was because the crew had already started logging hours and by the time a clear to fly issued we’d need a new crew. Not that it would have mattered, but I thought I would not be flying and the one time in my life I have paid for a private jet it would be the dog flying on it, not me. And Renée of course.

America, we are coming in hot!

“The best part was we were truly on our way to get Alfred some help, a chance to save him

Thursday went smoothly. We turned up, parked the car, got on the jet, flew to NYC. On a commercial flight there are little increments of comfort between Economy, Premium Economy, Business and First. Compared to flying private those classes of travel are all the same. No difference. It’s all cattle class. The whole aircraft to ourselves, big luxurious seats, a sofa, your own bathroom with Diptyque toiletries. Want a lay flat bed? Just tell your own crew and they make you one up.  And Alfred was free to sit where he wanted, roam around, was fed a chicken dinner off a china plate, and was even able to chase a ball along the aisle. The best part was we were truly on our way to get Alfred some help, a chance to save him.

We were arriving just in time

We didn’t need reminding of the difficulties ahead. The novelty of traveling like rock stars soon faded when mid flight he suffered a seizure. By now I am well versed in how to deal with this, and Renée is able to spot the warning signs with incredible accuracy. I  got him to the bathroom with a soft towel and comforted him just as his little body went into a full grand mal seizure. Since his diagnosis Alfie had been on strong barbiturate and steroid medication which had suppressed the seizures. Something that would only last so long. We were 10 days without a seizure and this a clear indication the efficacy of the medication was reducing, and the tumour growing. We were arriving just in time.

I LOVE this!

Carry on allowance an improvement over commercial.

ooOOoo

I am going to reproduce the contents of an email that I sent Anthony yesterday morning. It sums up how we feel about what Anthony and Renée are doing.

Dear Anthony,

I have now read very carefully your blog especially your posts of the last few weeks.

They are beautiful. In the sense of describing what you feel towards Alfred. Dogs bond to humans unconditionally. You love Alfred unconditionally.

It’s a little after 5am here in Southern Oregon. Jean and I are sitting back on top of our bed having had recently our first morning coffees. On the bed is also Oliver, an ex-rescue Labrador crossed with a Border Collie. Oliver’s bond with me is so precious. Beyond words but not beyond feelings!

I am going to write a couple of posts that essentially republish your posts about you getting Alfred to Minneapolis. But beyond that Jean and I want to wish you every success in Alfred’s treatment. Is there anything more practical that we can do to help? We are in our 70s. We are both English. We met in Mexico in December, 2007. Jean was rescuing dogs, spay or neutering them, then finding homes for them mainly in Arizona. I flew with my GSD, Pharaoh, to LAX from London, in 2008. Then down to Mexico. We came to the USA in 2010 to be married and to live with our then 16 dogs. Subsequently we came to Oregon in 2012.

I am so grateful for my son highlighting your blog.

With very best wishes,

Paul

Our very own Oliver!