Reading of a Sacramento Garden and Remembering Home

As I sit here in my 12th-floor apartment in Toronto, thousands of miles away from my beloved homeland India, I read Mark Paul’s letter from his garden and my thoughts flew homeward to Dehradun, a beautiful, once-sleepy town situated on the foothills of the Himalayas.

Living in an apartment is new to me. I have a beautiful view of Lake Ontario from this beautiful and bright apartment, but I miss the warmth of my cozy and welcoming cottage at home, with the pretty lace curtains gently blowing in the wind, shooing away the bees and wasps that seek the cool interiors.

This is the middle of April and my garden must be a riot of colors. The roses, dianthus, pansies, petunias, and poppies must be in their brilliant and best attire coaxing the honeybees to visit them. My lychee trees must be loaded with green fruit which will soon turn to red as they ripen and put forth plump and juicy lychees (a fruit that grows in abundance in the Doon Valley). My mango trees must be festooned in blossoms promising a generous crop of the sweetest Dussehri mangoes that are native to the place. I’m not there and I long for these blessings or luxuries.

My mind wanders to the bare Gul Mohr tree where the parrots, a brilliant green in relief to the brown branches, gather—hundreds of them—each evening to chatter and shriek. They are discussing the events of the day. I could almost read what they were saying. And then, as if by some unseen signal, they would all fly away in different directions to their nests and perhaps to their nestlings, to settle in for the night.

The sound of birdsong that woke me every morning is now replaced by the banging and clattering of the garbage trucks in the lot downstairs. I long for the day when I return home again and sit on my veranda, my faithful dogs beside me, a mug of coffee in hand watching the dawn of a newborn day, looking at my vegetable patch and pondering what to get my cook to make for my lunch. The luxury of having garden fresh organically grown vegetables is now a distant dream.

I wonder if my ‘monkey brigade’ still visits my garden. Led by a fierce and aggressive male, this band of monkeys would come over the wall and into my garden every morning looking for fruit to eat. This brings to mind an incident. One day when the ‘visitors’ arrived they set upon a bush of bright red very pungent chili peppers in the garden. They happily surrounded the bush and began plucking the chilies and when they tasted the chilies all hell broke loose. They went on the rampage and uprooted all the chili plants in my garden. I never planted chilies again.

Homesick and lonely, I pray that this deadly virus that has robbed me and the world at large of the few joys of life will be defeated—never to return again.

—Alicia Mayer

The Woman in Einstein’s Social Brain

With my friend and colleague Chandra Murkerji, I revisited the argument in the essay I wrote for Zócalo on Einstein’s Brain. We can now offer some observations on the perennial controversy concerning the role of Einstein’s first wife, Mileva Marić, in his achievements. Marić was a Serbian physicist and mathematician, and the only woman in Einstein’s class at Zurich’s Polytechnic. She was the second woman to complete the program of study in the Department of Mathematics and Physics at the Polytechnic. 

We now have a new way to evaluate her contributions to Einstein’s thinking. Among the historical reasons for considering her influence are the facts that her handwriting is on some of Einstein’s early manuscripts, and she helped him with his math. But if we consider that from the perspective that “Einstein’s Genius Wasn’t In His Brain; It Was In His Friends” we see that Mileva was one of those in his social network whose shoulders he stood on; in other words, she was very much a part of his social brain. We are not dealing here with the question of whether or not she was his intellectual equal. The classical way of considering the extent of her influence (based on the myth of individualism) was to look for direct, physically visible signs of influence. We suggest the revision of the “Giants” metaphor to read “Standing on the Shoulders of Social Networks” means that Mileva was part of Einstein’s social brain. We don’t have all the data needed to establish the precise content of her contributions but there can be no question that she contributed to his thinking. Women have not been standing behind their men; they have literally been in their heads.

—Sal Restivo and Chandra Murkerji, Professor Emerita, UC San Diego

Playing Piano for the Frogs

I have a frog couple in Essex Ct and they talk every night for hours. I think one is in my neighbor’s stagnant swimming pool and the other is across my muddy cove. The first one trills and the second one answers a major 3rd lower. One night there was no answer for the first one so I answered. He answered back and we talked for a while. I went to my piano and figured out they are talking in G major: D (the dominant) to the answer in B (the 3rd), which is such beautiful harmony. Occasionally, if the calling frog doesn’t get an answer, he will sing E to F# (which is the 5th to the 7th of the scale; in music this note is searching for home). How amazing is this!!

—R.N.


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