Ballad for Lorna

I love plants like teenage girls love Harry Styles. My friends—who turn the volume to blasting when Harry comes on the radio—patiently listen to me daydream about whatever my newest botanical crush is—mushroom music on YouTube, maybe, or air plants in the Peruvian desert. Someday, my friends joke, I’ll stop introducing myself as Sophia with a “ph” and start introducing myself as Sophia with a PhD. I laugh when they say this, but there’s a sense of trepidation about my future career I can’t shake.

Continue reading “Ballad for Lorna”

A Glimpse of the Universe: A History of Lichens and Ourselves

Amorphous in their beauty, beautiful in their amorphousness, lichens run Mars-red and sun-yellow. Sometimes moldy, sometimes mossy, they bloom in delicate curls of green and gray. Those rusty stains on the sidewalk by your house, pale leaflets creeping up the tree in your yard, puckered cups between the slats of your fence? Once you know what to look for, they’re everywhere. But the public spotlight on lichens is recent compared to other species. In fact, lichens only entered the academic scene in the late nineteenth century, thanks to Simon Schwenderer, the son of a Swiss farmer. On a crisp morning in 1867, the fresh-faced Schwenderer, as the newly minted director of the botanical gardens in Basel, Switzerland, proposed a hypothesis that would change the biological world.

Continue reading “A Glimpse of the Universe: A History of Lichens and Ourselves”

abstract: biophilia hypothesis

Past-tense panacea: that is to say, sunlight dripping through tall savanna grasses of northern Africa. Two and a half million years ago, a face that was not so different from your face smiled through golden stalks. The earth was already older than there are atoms in your body, and it smelled thick and sweet with dew. The face had already learned to walk, to eat, to listen, to watch the sun rise and set. Somewhere between the grasses, her child cries out. The face directs the child’s gaze from the burning sun to the stirring plain.

Continue reading “abstract: biophilia hypothesis”