Bluesy...

I rarely post much on my personal life – but I’ve been making some changes lately that seem to want to be expressed a little more directly than just to my immediate circles.

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I have a pretty fantastic life, I feel so lucky and fortunate to have happy, healthy children and to live in a wonderful, beautiful and free country like Canada.  It’s not like I’ve missed out on life’s struggles entirely:  I went through a pretty dismal time when I was doing my PhD at UBC.  Both my dad and my brother (to whom I was very close) died.  My dad of a heart attack 6 months before my wedding.  My brother died of AIDS during a time when it was still a taboo subject and the only hospital with an AIDS ward was downtown Vancouver.  To this day I remain grateful to all of the nurses and doctors who spent time and shared their expertise with my beloved sibling.  He missed the magical cocktail by a mere three weeks.  

I am divorced, and my ex-husband and I have a pretty terrific co-parenting relationship.  It hasn’t always been the easiest thing to do, but we are both very committed to putting the needs of our children first.  I’m quite convinced that we were never in love, but we were respectful of one another and always good friends.  That’s probably why we get on so well 6 years after we separated!

The kids are doing great, they are growing into little people with their own minds and outlooks.  I appreciate them much more now than I ever have before, probably because they are older and more reasonable.  The baby and toddler stages were intensely difficult for me.  I had post-partum depression 4 times and it was never easy.  

In the past year I went through a heart-wrenching split.  My ex-husband and I have been apart for many years, and three years ago I met someone who I fell deeply in love with.  We got engaged and we were going to get married – and then, instead of that, I found myself in a position of victimization, fear and insecurity.  The good times were so damn good.  But the bad times were bad.  And they got worse.  Until I feared for my own safety and that of my kids. 

And yet, as I sit here on a chilly December morning, there’s some part of me that wants him back.  Because I’m lonely and sad.  Because it’s close to Christmas.  Because I sometimes feel like I’ll never meet anyone else.  Ugh.  All those things that you KNOW are normal, healthy and functional phases of the grieving process - for relationships or any kind of significant loss -and that hurt like fuck. 

I’ll remain steadfast.  I’ll continue to be a great mom, and to enjoy all the wonderful and amazing projects and people that come into my professional life, and I’ll continue to layer the love onto my close friends.  I don’t feel any shame in sharing my struggle.  I’m so sick of this world of social media glory where you can make it look like everything is rosy and perfect. 

I work damn hard for my successes, and I enjoy them tremendously.  I also work damn hard for my near-misses, my less-than-successful-successes, and my outright fails.  I’m ok with stumbling.  As a constant risk-taker I’m used to rejection, irreverence and indifference.  Regardless of how they play out, it’s utterly impossible for me to exist without my back-pocket passion projects and my wacky sense of adventure that my readers and fans know all too well. 

I’ll keep being that girl, because I like that girl a lot.  Just remember that she’s always coming to you from a place of authenticity and reality.  Not some kind of fairy tale where all of my achievements were simply handed over too easily or too soon. 

Whatever your own struggles may be, keep in mind that every single person, no matter how lucky, unlucky or otherwise, is the same:  a complex animal with a multitude of connections and complications and conundrums.  These 4 C’s (among many others assuredly) will always keep us on the tips of our toes.  Sometimes it looks like ballet.  Other times it looks like a fucking hot mess.  Either is ok.

Perfectly Poisonous Pitcher Plants are Awaiting Our Arrival...

It's almost BORNEO time!  You've still got a few weeks to book the remaining spaces (just a few) on the next adventure with Taxon Expeditions...

I provided a lot of the overall details of our itinerary in my first blog post here; however, something that I am particularly excited about is our 2-day hike planned to the center of the Mailau Basin.  This area is home to nearly unfathomable numbers of plant, animal, invertebrate and microbe species, including some of the most intriguing plants in the world.

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Menno Schilthuizen, one of our trip leaders, has lent me one of his books -Loom of Life, in which he describes many aspects of the pitcher plants that we will encounter.  These oddly shaped entities are named for their large, vessel-like bodies (called phylotelmata) that on first glance appear to be filled with water.  For the weary hiker or insect in search of a drink, this is a delightful prospect in an extremely hot and humid environment.  The graceful curves of the enticing, liquid-filled cups prove deadly for hundreds of tiny invertebrates.  The viscous, slippery nature of the pitcher-plant fluid makes it impossible for them to crawl out once their bodies are covered in it, and this results in a diverse array of dead and dying creatures in them at any given time.  Just how impossible is it for victims to get out once they are in?  The highest observed number of attempted crawl-outs by a single tiny invertebrate individual is 48 – which is hopefully not representative of the amount of suffering that the average victim endures!  In addition to being slippery, the fluid contains many digestive enzymes and is essentially the means by which the plants break down their prey.  The cup-structure itself acts as an external stomach for breakdown and digestion of nutrients.

The loom of life

 

Sure, at this point the system sounds incredibly interesting and most definitely something to see – but there’s another layer of complexity to consider as well.  A number of both vertebrate and invertebrate species have evolved mutualistic relationships with pitcher plants, such that the former obtain nectar and/or shelter from the pitcher, and the latter provide the pitcher with additional help in the digestive department.  The pitcher fluid itself isn’t strong enough to break down the biomass of larger victims like spiders or cockroaches, so mutualistic species are extremely helpful in speeding the process along.  They do this either through mechanical means (mutualistic ants) or through defecating directly into the pitcher itself (bats and monkeys).  In some cases, the pitchers act as little forest toilets – where the vertebrate species can feed on their nectar and take a poop at the same time!

 

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Not all organisms that find themselves in the phylotelmata of the pitcher plant succumb to the acidic, slippery fluid.  There are actually several species of invertebrates that have evolved to spend their lifespans fishing from the smorgasbord of treats that their host plants provide.  These so-called infaunal species live in their own pitcher-bound ecosystems where food is plentiful and they are well protected from external predators.

Pitcher plants don’t grow in the Northern part of North America where I live, so I simply cannot wait for my chance to see them up close and personal.  There are just a few spots left on our next excursion, I’d love to have you join us!  For more information on how you can come along to Borneo, visit www.taxonexpeditions.com

I'll see you soon!

A Steamy Talk on Wild Sex

I was recently in Madison, Wisconsin as a guest on a live broadcast for the NPR show 'To The Best of Our Knowledge'.  Not only was the event a tremendous amount of fun, I really enjoyed the beautiful vibe of the city itself - especially the gorgeous old University buildings!  Here's my talk, I'm quite proud of it.  Enjoy!