Mom and Nature

by Mel Gilden

Recently I wrote about how odors can trigger memories, concentrating on the manly man smell my father brought with him when he came home from the gym. I don't associate my mother with a particular odor — for one thing, she was not the type to wear perfume — but I sometimes things occur in my daily life that remind me of her.

For one thing, like her own parents she was always interested in nature — not in any professional scientific way, but as a curious amateur observer.

Project Moho

Project Moho deep earth penetration project.

I am the oldest of three boys, and like most little boys my brothers and I spent a lot of time digging holes to the center of the earth and studying nature in the raw, or as raw as it got in our back yard in the middle of Los Angeles. Occasionally, one of us would find what was invariably known as "an interesting bug." When we reported the discovery to Mom, she was usually as interested in it as we were. Unless she was very busy in the kitchen or on the phone, she would join us outside to observe. Did the "bug" have red wings? Too many legs? Too few legs? Was it devouring a leaf or a victim in some interesting way?

As we had seen Mom's parents do in their own back yard, we leaned in close to the performance with our hands behind our backs. That was the approved stance when observing nature. Though Mom has been gone for almost a decade, and her parents for much longer than that, I still find myself taking up the old official attitude when nature presents an interesting exhibit.

True Bug(Speaking of "bugs," I am reminded of a chapter in my high school biology book in which the author discussed a group he called "true bugs." According to this expert, "true bugs" had specific characteristics and were quite rare. One of the few things my brothers and I agreed on was that this guy was crazy. For us, "bug" was not a scientific name. It was what we called any little crawly thing if we didn't know what it was. I still think we were right and the expert was wrong. "True bug," indeed!)

PigeonMom was also intrigued by strange animal life and unusual weather. Once she walked an entire block with us to observe a hawk or something like it cooling its feet in the gutter. More than once we tried to nurse a sick pigeon back to health. Unlike rational people, on the rare occasions when it hailed we ran outside to experience it first hand. We always hoped for snow, but never got any.