An Excerpt from Jim Conrad's
NATURALIST NEWSLETTER
of April 7, 2002
issued from the woods near Natchez, Mississippi, USA

GREEN TO MAKE THE HEAD SWIM

All around my little trailer too-close-together Sweetgum saplings flaunt their new leaves right at eye level. Their profound greenness when the sun shines through them just makes the head swim. Above, the big Pecan trees are just beginning to put on leaves, so by looking up one can see blue and gray, but throughout the normal day I feel like a fish in an algae-filled aquarium left in the sun. The fish analogy is fitting because I feel as I'm breathing this greenness, swimming and dreaming in it, absorbing it and having it flow through my veins.

The other morning I was staring into this three-dimensional super-greenness while listening on the radio about the upcoming Shuttle lift-off, and about the project in store for it upon reaching the orbiting International Space Station. The juxtaposition of this green-staring and radio listening conjured a flash of insight, or maybe even a vision.

But first, you should know that the Space Station is a gangling thing bristling with solar panels. You can see it on the Web at spaceflight.nasa.gov/gallery/images/station/assembly/h tml/sts105-707-055.html. If nothing else, that picture shows that NASA understands about life's fundamental and elemental needs and priorities.

My fleeting, radio-listening "vision" was this: The Sweetgum saplings around me right now are doing exactly what NASA is doing with the orbiting Space Station. Both the Sweetgums and the Space Station are putting out their solar panels to capture energy needed to function and stay alive. For a split second I could see my Sweetgums as just as vulnerable and desperate for energy as the people in the Space Station, and I could see so clearly that once all romance is swept away, the basics are the same everywhere.

Both the Sweetgum saplings around me and NASA are confirming and celebrating a fundamental formula around which Earth life has crystallized. That formula is this:

the sun --> capture of sunlight energy --> the energy used to grow and evolve