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Showing posts from January, 2007

Holy Ground

In the short, cold, dismal gray days of winter, I can drive to work before the sun comes up, drive home after it goes down, and never see it or feel its radiation for weeks at a time. So Friday night I strapped the canoe to the top of the truck and headed out to Smith and Bybee lakes before sunrise.

At the east edge of Smith Lake, I pushed the canoe off the ice rimmed shoreline into the cold dark water and headed west. An icy whisper of wind stirred up a train of wavelets that gently splashed against the bow and retarded my progress, but the paddling kept me warm. In those moments of transition, as the sky lightened, and the trees began to murmur, I recalled the words from the creation myth that my particular culture endorses.

“The earth was without form and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep; and the Spirit of God was moving over the face of the waters. And God said, “Let there be light””

I turned the canoe around and stopped paddling. I floated in the middle of the lake a…

Snow Day

Portland typically doesn’t get more than one or two big snow events per year. When the snow does come, it only loiters for a day or two. This puts snow in the novelty category for most of us who live in the Willamette Valley. When weather forecasters begin to insinuate that snow may reach the valley floor, it is not only the children who run shouting to the windows to verify the first snowflake sighting, the ranks are swollen also by every adult who never grew up in Minnesota or some other reasonable facsimile.

Early Tuesday morning, in what seemed like a sneak attack, the streets began disappearing under inches of snow that readily packed into an ice-like coating. The public school system authorities, still smarting from criticism for having closed down the schools on a day when no snow really materialized, almost erred in the other direction by refusing to call off school until almost seven o’clock. By that time, traffic had already pretty much ground to a halt and any place with ele…

Invasion of the Alien Pods

They looked harmless. They looked like decorative flowers. But hidden among the wilting blooms and walls of sword shaped leaves, the plants were diverting their energy into the production of survival pods, packing them with DNA instructions and the resources necessary to execute the campaign to propagate the species – seeds.

Like economy class passengers stuffed onto an international flight, the seeds are packed into the pods – the fuselages of clever and efficient dispersal devices.

The sun’s deliberate retreat to the South brings an end to the season of excess solar energy. The handwriting is on the wall. The plant must look forward to decline and perhaps death. The signal to activate the pods is sent.Since not even a plant can predict the future, there is some uncertainty about what the optimal conditions for dispersal will be. Therefore the plant is forced to hedge its bets and adopt a strategy that will take advantage of the changing conditions of the autumn season and winter. Som…

Reservoir of Memory

Say a chimpanzee knuckle walks into a cathedral.
Does it stand in awe before the ornate alter or are its predominating thoughts more like, “I don’t see any bananas - Where can I find some bananas?”

Much is being discovered about how similar the genetic code is for chimps and humans, yet the dissimilarities seem fairly significant. So far as I know, chimps don’t build churches, worship before icons, or go on crusades, at least not for purposes of evangelism. The question that goes begging is whether or not chimps neglect their religious duties because of superior intelligence or not.

Frans De Waal has assembled a remarkable book called My Family Album: Thirty Years of Primate Photography. The photographs document the social behavior of monkeys and apes and effectively argue that the difference between a man and a chimp is a small matter of degree on a broad continuum.
Obviously not a chimp.
Chimps use tools, communicate in rich social environments, and recognize themselves in mirrors. That …