Archive for March, 2007

Pollen Invasion

Posted: March 28, 2007 in Nature

The pollen count estimates the total pollen concentration in the atmosphere over a period of 24 hours. Pollen levels of 0-30 per cubic meter are considered low and a count of 120+ is high. The count in the city today was a 5499! I was surprised that the visibility had reduced considerably and I felt as if I was driving in a yellow haze. The road looked sick. It seemed ‘jaundiced’ by the pollen infection. The reports informed that oak, sweet-gum, sycamore, birch, mulberry and beech were the miscreants for the sky-rocketing levels of pollen. Every time, I left my desk to go out, I felt dusty. My nose tingled. I felt smothered by the yellow blanket, my eyes burnt and my head was heavy. Never had I imagined or experienced a phenomenon such as this before. Below is a picture of a trash can by the road side at Emory, covered with pollen.

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Spring

Posted: March 24, 2007 in Nature

Spring Break was almost over. It was time to get back to the grind. I was on my way to my lab at Emory and I drove past Piedmont Park at quarter past eight this morning. It was pleasantly quiet at the park. Women in their mid-sixties wobbled in groups along the concrete track in the park. I caught a glimpse of a few joggers on the far side of the park; their wet shirts revealing the intense activity they had been through on this beautiful calm morning. With the temperature warming up to almost 78F, the trees had already begun to look green. I remembered what a friend said to me a couple of days back. After the bizarre winter, with no signs of the temperature rising even above 60F, I found it incredulous when he said that Spring was round the corner. He said, ‘The trees are changing color… they know it is time.’ I was all ready for another bout of cold weather but he was right. It got warmer. All along the expanse of the park, I could see lush young green grass. The sidewalk presented a cheerful medley of purple and white cherry blossoms. If only the light at the intersection of Piedmont Road and The Prado could never show me Spring; I could wait for hours and watch the park.

As I drove towards Ansley Park, I smiled. I was reminded of the famous poem ‘Leisure’ by W.H. Davies.

What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.
No time to stand beneath the boughs
And stare as long as sheep or cows.
No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.
No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night.
No time to turn at Beauty’s glance,
And watch her feet, how they can dance.
No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began.
A poor life this if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.

The North Druid Hills offered another pretty site – A meandering road that seemed to go right into the woods. You needed to go some distance to actually see the buildings hidden in the trees. The lake that nestled in the hills was bared by the winter. The tall trees were beginning to cloak the view again. Here too, pink cherry blossoms had bloomed in abundance. The view was breath-taking. I felt greatly fortunate when I realized that I could treat myself with this view every single day, for the coming few months. Then I would the watch the canvas in a bright warm color scheme and experience the unveiling of the lake again in fall and wait to yet again be mesmerized by this display of Nature.

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Paranoia

Posted: March 14, 2007 in Research

I turned into the parking lot of my apartment thinking and rethinking if today’s lab-work went well. Eight full hours of hard and knocking gradients had already numbed my brain. I tried hard to recollect every minute detail of my experiment. I took the sample of fixed tissue out of the container. (The sight never ceases to awe me and disgust me at the same time .) I held the whole brain under water and gave it a thorough wash, feeling each sulcus and gyrus as I started from the frontal pole to the occipital lobe. I had realized that I had cuts on my fingers. I had covered each one of the cuts; big or small using all the bandages, knuckle bandages, butterfly clasps and tapes I could find before I wore my gloves. Six of my ten fingers had pale coffee colored bands on them. All the protective gear had been in place.

It was well past midnight and I was ready to go to bed. I lay in my bed, awake. Something was bothering me. I could not figure out what it was. ‘Maybe I did not lock the door to my apartment.‘ I got up to check. As I went past the shoe rack, my eyes fell on the shoes I had worn today and instantly I smelt animal odor. My nasal cavity seemed full with the scent; very pungent and very disturbing, just like you feel chlorine when you accidentally inhale water while swimming. I immediately squatted on the floor to examine my shoes. The shoe-cover had slipped once… just once. I looked to see if I could find anything on the sole. Nothing. I had touched the shoe with bare hands. I ran to the sink, my heart pounding. I washed my hands with Purell- twice. For a moment, I wished those hands that touched the shoes were not mine.

After what seemed like an eternity, I went back to the shoe rack. I tried to sense the odor again. There was none.