Natural indulgence

Color! Color! Color is all around! The blossoms are falling, the rhododendrons and camellias blooming, and the MacHall fountain providing riparian-esque entertainments.  All these happenings, in addition to the odd sun/rain/snow/hail phenomena periodically expressing itself, suggest that Spring is finally here and Summer just around the metaphorical corner. For me, these seasonal changes are energizing. Just as there is inherent catharsis when walking in the rain, so too exists inherent rejuvenation in the sensory overload that is mid-Spring. Dazzling reds and pinks, mixed with seductive fragrances of jasmine and lilac, all while splashed in glorious sunlight serve as nature’s lemondrop martini in this prelude to Summer.

For scientists and students, such sensory indulgences act as sources of inspiration and rejuvenation. Dis-spell that image of the scientist with pale skin and perpetually dilated eyes living in her lab and never seeing the light of day. Rebuff the notion that scientists can only wax poetic on proteins and cells, but not music or art. Rebel at the social misconception that to be a true student means shutting yourself away from the natural world. That is not to say students should not immerse themselves in their craft – they should! Library and bench times are essential. But at certain points one must “sit in reverie and watch the changing color of the waves that break upon the idle seashore of the mind,” as H.D. Longfellow so eloquently wrote, if one is to bring creative inspiration to his work.

In fact, I decry anyone to say a science student should not, from time to time, sit and observe the natural world. Was it not from Nature, from the need to understand and explain Nature, that science was first born? Isaac Newton had the legendary apple, Ben Franklin the serendipitously-timed kite, and George Washington Carver the want “to know the name of every stone and flower and insect and bird and beast…to know where it got its color, where it got its life.” Above all, science describes and characterizes the Natural World. As students in science, we must be able to justify the importance of our research and the contributions it makes to how nature is understood. Stop and smell the roses for a bit, go for that day long hike along the coast, go to the NW Film Center’s Hayao Miyazaki Film Festival, read that book on the Cuban Civil War that has been collecting dust on your night stand, go see the Rothko exhibit at the Portland Art Museum, or rock out to Brahms or Korean Pop music for 10 minutes, whichever you prefer (seriously, click the link and you will see that even Kpop and chemistry are connected).  If your work is to exist in the world, you must exist in the world.