An Excerpt from Jim Conrad's
NATURALIST NEWSLETTER
of November 29, 2015
Issued from hacienda Chichen Resort adjoining Chichén Itzá Ruin in
YUCATÁN, MÉXICO

PLUM LEAVES

leaves on rocking chairSometimes I sit in a rocking chair behind the hut reading beneath the plum tree. It's not a plum like we have up North, a member of the Rose Family, but rather a "Spanish Plum" of the Cashew or Sumac Family. Its leaves are pinnately compound, like a sumac's, with oblong leaflets about the size of peanut shells. It's a big tree and this week its yellow, dried-up leaves have been falling. At the right you can see leaflets that fell onto a rocking chair vacated for just a few minutes.

I'm unsure whether the leaflets are falling because the rainy season draws near or because every leaflet is infected with a leafspot fungus forming one or two brown spots fringed with green on the yellow leaflet surfaces. Mainly, it's afternoon breezes that make the leaflets shower, and when it happens you have to stop reading, look up, and watch.

In mid afternoon with the sun behind the tree, sunbeams fan down through mostly leafless, interlacing branches creating a special sense of three-dimensionality. Leaflets falling through those sunbeams compound the feeling. Gazing up through the falling leaflets, I seem to be sailing through space with stars passing all around.

Up North, lying beneath deciduous trees on sunny days in late October, I've experienced this sensation before. Nowadays, beneath the Spanish Plum, there's an added thought:

The spores in the infections on the falling leaflets are little more than hard shells protecting the fungus's genetic material. That genetic material bears encoded instructions on how the spore is to germinate and produce a new generation of leafspot fungus that will grow and infect next season's plum leaflets.

Of course, that's the way it is with all living things; we're all constructed according to instructions inherited in our genes.

Thinking about this, here's a point my mind catches on: That we living things are ephemeral, one-time phenomena who die after passing the age of reproduction, while the genetic information carried in the genes we pass along during reproduction goes on and on, ever replicating, steadily evolving and refining.

It almost seems unfair for the Universal Creative Impulse to treat genetic information as if it's sacred, while we living things are left to deal with such indignities as tooth decay, noisy neighbors, and dying. After all, the information can't even survive if we living things don't reproduce. Genetic information and living things are equal partners in this deal...

So, in a spiritual sense, what does all this mean? Should one focus on the majesty of the Universe and the beauty of life in general, or be angry about being an awareness with feelings inside a biological body programmed to deteriorate and die?

Beneath the plum tree, it seems that all kinds of opinions are valid, and in turn I've held many of them. And as falling leaves add an extra dimension to sunbeams filtering through tree branches, my sixty-eight years of experience texture the reply I have nowadays to, "What does all this mean... "

My reply today is to sit and rock a little bit longer.