Saturday, February 5, 2011
Some Flowers for Tina
I started the HomeBugGarden for two reasons: I needed an excuse to ruminate on what I could and could not contribute to invertebrate conservation in a small urban lot and I wanted to showcase some of my wife’s excellent photography. The first thing I learned during this endeavour was that although I had spent 40 years learning and practicing some aspects of the biological sciences, some of my most basic assumptions were not very scientific.
That discovery was interesting, if disconcerting, but since I had decided to give up the profession of a tenured professor of the truth, in favour of one puttering around in a garden, the discovery seemed of but academic (or rather chewing-the-cud) interest.
Discovering that things one always assumed were true were not, however, does tend to make one question other aspects of their lives. I’m not really ready to throw over most of these other convictions, but I am prepared to be neutral about them: maybe they are valid and maybe not. I’m pretty sure that when I die I will not go to heaven and God will not explain to me exactly what happened to the dinosaurs, but I am willing to suspend disbelieve about how successful others may be in their search for the truth.
Perhaps I am merely maturing as a scientist – learning what questions can be addressed by the scientific method and which ones cannot. Perhaps.
In any case, life marches on, relentlessly. I suppose I know this in the abstract sense, and more immediately in the recent deaths of several of my wife’s relatives. For the last 40 years or so, however, I have tried to keep a very broad buffer between me and my genetic family (the Pacific Ocean worked well).
A few months ago, my sister Tina was diagnosed with a cancer. Her emails were invariably cheerful and upbeat and the treatments seemed to offer hope. Then, suddenly last weekend, she was hospitalized with breathing problems. Here last emails told us not to worry, but on Friday she died.
That was very sudden, and all good intentions to the contrary, I will never get to show Tina the Home Bug Garden. I think she would have liked it. Although not an insectophile, she was interested and always sending me pictures of things she or her daughter Tessa had found in the backyard, in the driveway, in the bath tub, in the basement ...
Even if Tina would have just tolerated the bugs, I’m sure she would have like the flowers. So, here is my way of saying goodbye to my sister – a feast of flowers that I never got the chance to show her.