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Please Turn the Page

by Claude Needham Ph.D.

If you are of the squeamish sort, I highly recommend that you turn the page (cyberspace-wise that is.) And even is you aren't the squeamish sort, you may want to avail yourself of the same opportunity. I warn you spring may never be the same again.

They say a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. Well, a lot of knowledge is not much safer.

While in graduate school I had the dubious pleasure of studying grains of pollen under an electron microscope. I can tell you beyond any shadow of doubt that pollen grains were designed by the Grand Inquisitor. Nowhere can one find instruments of torture better designed. Razor-sharp barbs of twisting curled grappling hooks designed to instantly rend and attach to any flesh that they come in contact with. Real yucky to look at -- at least that was my less than scientific conclusion at the time.

Eventually I managed to put the images from my brain. Life went on.

Being a pollen sufferer there are times of the year when I tend to dwell on the subject of plant genetics, pollen and to a lessor extent stamen. Wandering down a field path the other evening -- sun descending just over the hill, golden glow striking the new leaves just emerging from the trees -- I was entertaining a few thoughts. Actually it was more of a Mad-Hatter Tea Party with ideas rampaging around -- no tea, move down, move down.

There were two main camps of thoughts. One chorus line dealing with issues of words and how our emotional response depends on the words with which something is described. For example, do you prefer eating "ground beef" or "a finely chopped cow corpse?" I really do believe the most popular answer is "ground beef". Few among us actually relish the thought of eating corpses -- cattle or otherwise. So for the sake of our hamburger delight "ground beef" is the preferred expression. Most probably if the cattle industry was forced to use the term "corpse" in their advertising campaigns they would lose a good portion of their business.

So, this first camp of thoughts jostled about in my head, working out dance steps concerning the power of synonyms.

The second of the two main camps of thought concerned the sea of pollen that I was currently being forced to walk around in -- pollen grains swarming through my lungs with each breath. Even as I imaged invisible clouds of pollen ebbing and flowing across the landscape reaching from soil to stratosphere, I could feel my histamine system mounting its defense against the onslaught.

Then these two camps of thought converged in a mayhem of action. "My Gawd Man! Pollen is just a polite term for plant sperm. You've been walking around in a sea of sperm."

Yes, the red itching of my eyes was caused by plant sperm irritating their surface. And my running nose was a body defense mechanism attempting to flush the plant sperm from my nostrils.

Even now as I write this I say yet another prayer of thanks to the Great God Synonym -- giving thanks for the word pollen. I'd much rather be dipped in a atmospheric bath of pollen than that other stuff.

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