We’re back. I didn’t know we were going until about a week beforehand, so I never told you, but now I will. We flew over to Boise, Idaho for the annual Botanical Society meeting.
It’s been seven years for my husband since he last attended a Bot Soc meeting, and then he went only for a day, to one held in Vancouver. I was nursing my mother in at-home Hospice, and barely paid attention to the meeting’s occurrence. That had not been so in previous years. I’d enjoyed the scientific and human interactions. I’m not a scientist by training, but I loved wrapping my mind around the language and principles of botany, letting my imagination work on the problems like the perpetual student I am at heart. (As a footnote I will tell you my mother graduated from Hospice back to health, and is still living, and very well, too.)
What are these meetings, why do they matter, how do they feel and who on earth would want to go?
Think plant nerds. Think plant fans. Imagine a batch of people obsessed with all sorts of vegetation and fungi and how they work, their ecology, the habitats they create, their greenness and aliveness, or if you prefer the fossil sort, their deadness, their ancient characters, their clues to the past and perhaps the future of our planet. Imagine a mass of folk filled with resonant obsession for the things you love. Massing together in the biggest botanical meeting in the country, showing off their ideas, sharing knowledge and concepts in a party atmosphere. Travelers from overseas as well, all coming in tired but eager.
We’d been away too long. That happened because husband took on an administrative post, and being the person he is, could not step back far enough to continue his own science. I assumed we’d see lots of new faces after our seven-year absence (for me actually even longer of course, let’s say ten,) but that we would have no place. I thought we’d come in like graying graduate students, reincarnated as students again in the field. Starting from somewhere near the beginning, simply grateful to have finally enough time to attend the meetings and start trying to catch up.
Which field in botany, you ask? Paleobotany. The science of very dead plants. The people who love them dream about them at night. They will endure temperatures over 100 Farenheit for the privilege of prying rock open in an endless detective hunt for the fugitive leaf. It’s magic, the heat vanishes, thirst and hunger likewise, all you can think about is the next promising chunk and the new discovery a rock hammer stroke away.
(above, witness the induction of a member of the section into the “Order of the Bow Tie”)
Paleobotanists also laugh and joke and have silly fun — witness the auction where two of the highest income generating items were a calendar featuring Paleo Barbie companied by famous paleobotanists, and a Harlequin Romance whose author knew Kirk Johnson, a paleobotanist now Director of the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, and used him as the inspiration for her hero in his whitey tighties in the novel Let It Bree.
I was stunned by our reception at the meeting. No, my husband was not forgotten. The best description I can give you is that they’d kept seats warm at the table for both of us.