An Excerpt from Jim Conrad's
NATURALIST NEWSLETTER
of April 20, 2003
issued from the woods near Natchez, Mississippi,, USA

ON THINGS OTHER THAN MEDIUM SIZE

The pleasure I've experienced this week visiting the fleabanes reminded me of an interesting thought once expressed by a famous astrophysicist, whose name I've forgotten, though his idea has long informed my world view. He said that when you take into account the enormity of the cosmos, and the unbelievable complexity present at the microscopic level and even lower, in subatomic realms, we humans, in terms of size, find ourselves about midway the two worlds.

The fleabanes reminded me of this because usually they go unappreciated until someone makes an effort to relate to their tiny details. To delight in fleabanes, one must shift mental gears so that miniscule things become relevant.

I once heard a mentally ill person describing being in a state of euphoria while walking the streets of Manhattan. Though intellectually he knew he was dwarfed by skyscrapers, he actually felt as if he was taller than they, looking down on them. By the same token, I have heard people describing states of depression during which they felt they were so small that they hardly existed. A speck of dust was more substantial than they. Of course, moments of craziness are just extreme expressions of states of mind possible for all of us.

So, we humans possess an enormous flexibility when it comes to defining which parts of the world around us are worthy of attention. We like to think that we are flexible enough to enjoy all things great and small, but in reality most of us surely get stuck looking at a very narrow sliver of reality -- the part that coincides with our human size -- day after day, year after year, and we grow jaded in the process.

So, today with a handlens I admire the fleabane's tiny tuft of silvery hairs atop immature future fruits, and tonight I shall gaze into the sky visualizing the swirl of our own galaxy, and the place our galaxy occupies in the broad Universe.

And later, in my dreams, maybe I'll squint into space only to find in the most distant corner a burst of yellow and white light, for all the world looking just like a little fleabane flower. Facebook Icon.