Nature’s Depths

Walking through nature with John Palka, a neuroscientist who loves plants and ponders big questions

Milkweed seed pod opening, Prairie Oaks Institute

In the Autumn of the Year

Rumination

“Autumn is a season of great beauty, but it is also a season of decline: the days grow shorter, the light is suffused, and summer’s abundance decays toward winter’s death. Faced with this inevitable winter, what does nature do in autumn? She scatters the seeds that will bring new growth in the spring—she scatters them with amazing abandon.”

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Bald eagle eye close up

Seeing with Different Eyes

Exploration

Sensitivity to light is so universally useful that many kinds of animals have evolved eyes. The structure of the eyes of diverse animals, however, varies considerably, and with this variation come differences in what information about the world the eyes can capture and convey to the brain. Thus, the role of vision in the lives of different animals cannot be assumed to be similar to our own experience. Let’s look at some examples.

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Freedom!

New Life on Our Doorstep

Exploration

It was April 20th of this year. We were sitting in our lovely three-season sun porch enjoying the coming of spring, I on the couch and Yvonne, opposite me, in her favorite gliding rocker. All of a sudden she exclaimed, “Look. There’s a duck on our railing!”

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Mississippi Sunset

Valuing Nature

Rumination

Nature’s Depths is dedicated to exploring the natural world, seeking to understand it to an ever greater degree, and cultivating a sense of being an integral part of it. In this post, however, I will explore not so much ways of understanding but rather ways of valuing. As we’ll see, understanding and valuing are closely intertwined.

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Magnolia buds in Seattle

The Buds of Spring

Exploration

While the colors of the winter months are mostly muted, spring brings fresh greens, pinks, yellows, and soon the full, vibrant palette of freshly emerged flowers. Where do all those fresh leaves and brilliant flowers come from? The buds.

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