I retired early from New York to Williamsburg, Virginia, to spend more time writing and to recover from what Richard Louv has called ‘nature deficit disorder’.
I grew up in and around London, which sounds too urban for fostering a love of nature. Starting my career in Cambridge under Nobel Laureate (Sir) Robert Edwards, I studied animal and human reproduction, embryology, and aging. Later, much later, I married Lucinda Veeck, who was the embryologist on the first successful IVF team in America. We both owe our careers to Bob, as do upwards of five million babies conceived using IVF. Along the way, I was on the faculty of Edinburgh, Leeds, McGill, the Jones Institute, and lastly I was a professor and research director at Cornell’s Weill Medical College in Manhattan.
Naturally, I want to write about subjects I know or care about – science, medicine, and wonders in nature. Sounds rather lofty? You bet! But I sip my medicine in small doses, and only when I think it is safe to swallow. I hope you don’t think the posts are too eclectic, but let’s see how they turn out each week …
One more thing. This blog doesn’t accept any advertising revenue, and the books shown in the sidebar were published by our non-profit publishing company, Jamestowne Bookworks. It’s very liberating not to worry about money!
January 1, 2013
When I started posting these musings last year I wondered where they would wander, and guessed it would be a wide territory. True. My keyboard clatters to different tunes every week depending on what is currently buzzing in my head. This week it is insects, sometimes science, sporadically health or medicine, often wondrous things in nature, and occasionally I felt compelled by a human interest story. The picture panel below gives a few clues. But my aim to observe rather than campaign or advertise has not changed, and hence I have been careless about the number of visitors hitting my website.
Robert Louis Stephenson wrote it is better to travel hopefully than to arrive, and that’s an apt metaphor for my work. Writing provides momentum for exploring subjects that trigger my curiosity and imagination or help the struggle to understand the dark and sad sides of life. It is satisfying to upload another post, and sometimes a relief, but my goal was realized before I reached the final draft. It’s a bonus if readers enjoy it.
They might be surprised to find more posts about nature than anything in biomedicine for which I was called expert. But a fascination with the natural world reaches back to childhood before I had a career, to a time when the word Green only meant a color. The gap that opened at the end of a career quickly filled with a long-postponed passion.
For all the brilliant advantages of being alive in these times, not least this mode of communication, there is a deep shadow of apprehension about the legacy we leave to future generations. A lot of diversity in nature has been lost since Alfred Russel Wallace was in the Indonesian jungle and John James Audubon hiked the virgin American forests, and species have vanished more rapidly since my own boyhood. As the most invasive and destructive species we are slowly waking from dreams of total conquest over nature to responsibilities for its care, even if mainly driven by self-interest in an era labeled the Sixth Extinction. But there is an irony, and perhaps an obstacle, that this late concern is coming at a time when people are even more disconnected from nature and our food sources because human populations everywhere are drifting to urban dwelling. In cities an appreciation for wild things is mostly a second-hand experience.
That is why Mr. Louv deserves to be read. And it is also why in my imagination I am pulled to the Wild Wood, like the opposite pole of a magnet, where we are aliens. I sympathize with the Rat: “Beyond the Wild Wood comes the Wild World…And that’s something that doesn’t matter either to you or to me. I’ve never been there, and I’m never going, nor you either, if you’ve got any sense at all.” (Wind in the Willows).
August 1, 2014