Last year I read A Small Death in Lisbon and enjoyed it. This year I started reading another book, by the same author, that also takes place in and around Lisbon. Here is a character from the book The Company of Strangers, by Robert Wilson, speaking about Fado and Lisbon. This takes place in 1944.

The Portuguese controlled the trade that made food taste good… and then they lost it all and not only that… their capital was destroyed by a cataclysmic event. The earthquake. On All Souls Day, too. Most of the population were in church. Crushed by falling roofs. The flood and fire. The perils of Egypt, minus the plague and locusts, were visited on them in a few hours. So that’s where Fado comes from. Dwelling in and on the past. There are other things too. Men putting out to sea in boats and not always coming back. The women left behind to fend for themselves and to sing them back into existence. Yes, it’s a sad place, Lisbon, and fado provides the anthems. That’s why I don’t live there. Go there as little as possible.

It’s fun to recognize streets and squares and parks where the story takes place. The sadness the character describes, however, I don’t recognize today. Fado, Flamenco, the Blues, they are all more universal than any horrible event or terrible loss. To me, they speak of being human. There isn’t a family alive that hasn’t dealt with loss. It comes in different shapes and colors, but we all know it, we recognize it, and we feel its echo in the music.

(((I wonder whether some day sad music might be outlawed, as books are being outlawed now, because being sad can make us reflect on our lives, can make us introspective and less excited about climbing ladders and shopping.)))


Think before you speak, read before you think.

— Fran Lebowitz

The Wood Wide Web

Still reading Ways of Being, by James Bridle. My copy of the book is already full of sentences and paragraphs I highlighted. Sometimes I am only able to read a single page because I need to reflect on the information I just received. I need to let it ferment a little before I can go on. Those are my favorite books. :-)

I learned that The Wood Wide Web was the headline on the cover of the August, 1997, issue of Nature magazine.

Network Theory, which followed right on the heals of the invention of the World Wide Web, enabled us to SEE such networks in nature. We humans use a model through which we view the world. If our model doesn’t acknowledge something we will not see that thing. It will remain in our blind spot. Once we had the World Wide Web and Network Theory, we were able to see similar networks all around us, such as forests and the fungal strands, the mycelium, that connect the trees in a symbiotic relationship.

Remarkable, but not surprising, that we needed to invent a technology in order to see and understand the same principle at work in nature.

Ways of Being is a great book for anyone who enjoyed The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate by Peter Wohlleben or The Overstory, by Richard Powers. A great trilogy.

I can get behind this.

Plants Listen

This week the Interdependence Podcast was recommended to me. I looked at the list of episodes and one, with artist and author James Bridle, appealed to me right away:

Other intelligences and prepping for utopia with James Bridle | Interdependence:

Thrilled to host James Bridle to discuss his recent book on ecologies of non-human intelligence “Ways of Being”, animal sensing and co-operation, deliberative democracy, the singing origins of language, cybernetics, and a great deal more.  Few have such an encyclopedic and generous grasp of this field and it was a real treat.

You should check it out, it will be an hour well spent. Link to James Bridle’s website. He also has a blog – link.

After listening to the podcast I decided to buy the book Ways of Being.

Here is a review of the book:

In this book, Bridle has created a new way of thinking about our world, about being. How would we live our lives and change our world if we embraced this thinking? If we did not place ourselves at the center of everything? Please read this important book. Read it twice. Talk about it. Tell everyone you know.

Link to the Washington Post.

I started reading the book yesterday. Much to contemplate and many highlights to revisit. Here is something I read last night:

In 2014, two biologists at the University of Missouri recorded the sound of cabbage white caterpillars feeding on a cress plant. (Arabidopsis thaliana, rock cress, is the macaque of the botanical sciences, the most popular plant for biological experiments, and it has taught us many things about plant growth and genetics. It was the first flowering plant to have its genome sequenced and its DNA cloned, and it has even gone to the moon.) Having left the caterpillars to munch away for some time, the scientists then removed them and played the sound of their approach back to the plants. Immediately, the plants flooded their leaves with chemical defences intended to ward off predators: they responded to the sound as they would to the actual caterpillars. They heard them coming. Crucially, they didn’t respond in the same way when other sounds – of the wind or of different insects – were played to them. They were able to distinguish between the different sounds, and act appropriately.

That was an excerpt From Ways of Being by James Bridle. Published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

My mother had a beautiful collection of plants growing in the windows of our apartment in Kóln. Among these plants were a couple of cacti. They grew to be quite large and often bloomed more than once a year. One afternoon a boy, who lived in the neighborhood, came by to ask her about her plant care. He told her that he loved cacti but, although he constantly checked the PH level of the dirt and gave the plants exactly what he had learned from books in the library, they had never bloomed. I remember his dumbfounded look when my mom told him she just gave them water when it seemed like they needed some and she often sang to them. Not a scientific experiment at all, but it taught me at an early age that for plants there is more to thriving than living in the proper dirt.

We are surrounded by intelligence. Much of it we haven’t learned to decode yet. That’s not the fault of fauna and flora… it’s our shortcoming. We are learning about it slowly. Anyway, read James Bridle’s book and you will be able to see what a possible future might look like, if we learn to interact with other intelligences. The book is not a dry scientific text. Bridle serves up plenty of great anecdotes that keep you interested. Perhaps you should start by listening to the podcast – it will give you a good entry into the book.


“Soil is crammed with bacteria. Its earthy scent is the smell of the chemicals they produce. Petrichor, the smell released by dry ground when it is first touched by rain, is caused in large part by an order of bacteria called the Actinomycetes. The reason that no two soils smell the same is that no two soils have the same bacterial community. Each, so to speak, has its own terroir.”

From “Regenesis” by George Monbiot

Brussels Sprouts

In an appearance on the new Alo Yoga podcast Alo Mind Full, Kanye West said that he hasn’t read “any book” and compared reading to eating brussel sprouts.

No wonder that I don’t understand the man. I love books AND Brussels sprouts. I should take a dish of Brussels sprouts to eat at the local library to celebrate both.