Monthly Archives: December 2016

A Fishy Miracle


Collage by Sandra Knauf. Image of “Giant Snow Globe in Braga, Portugal” by Joseolgon; “Angel Fish” by Carlosar – both via Wikimedia Commons.

This is a story I wrote years ago and adapted to republish today; the events are all true, but the story combines two years, this year and one special day about eight years ago when I heard a fishy plea for help.

This is also one of the stories that didn’t make it into my forthcoming book, The Chicken Chronicles, so I’m excited to share it today. I hope you like it.

Best Holiday Wishes to all!

—Sandra Knauf

* * *

A Fishy Miracle

The temperature outside read six degrees as I sipped my morning coffee and brooded about Christmas The year had been one of the most disappointing ever. An election year of fear, name-calling, exposed corruption, fraud; so many were pointing fingers, lately at Russia, so few doing what we had to do to get back on track, finding shared ground. Horrendous military actions continued around the globe in our name, as did assaults on Mother Nature. We were lucky in that we had lost no close friends or family members this year, but several friends had not been so fortunate. Now it was Christmas. I’d been scanning strangers’ faces and they mirrored mine. Stressed. Scroogy. A friend who manages a toy store said she dreaded the season. “Every year, when we run out of sale items, at least one person says, ‘You’ve just ruined my kid’s Christmas.’ ”

I thought about pettiness—the argument over whether to say “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays,” the peace-sign wreath condemned by a homeowner’s association here in our own city. Then, sitting there at the table, I felt something. In the aquarium by the window, just a few feet away, three palm-sized angel fish stared at me as if trying to communicate. I got up and checked the floating thermometer. My heart leapt. It was at fifty degrees, the cut-off point between dangerously cool and dead tropical fish. The heater had become unplugged.

I plugged it in and added hot water, hoping the angels would be okay. Then I settled once more into dark thoughts about this holiest season of high expectations. Carols and hot chocolate weren’t going to cut it—not this year.

As the fish warmed up and became active, I remembered how for a couple of months that summer I’d thought about giving them away. Along with two canaries, three rabbits and four chickens—animals collected for the education of my daughters and myself in our country-living-in-the-city experiment. Fodder for life, fodder for writing, it now all seemed, after seven years, as worn out as I felt. Still, I’d been unable to give them up, animal friends who, in their own quiet ways, had brought so many joys and insights.

In our fifty gallon tank we had started out with two small angel fish among the assortment. When the angels reached maturity, we discovered we had a male and a female. Regularly, they spawned. Our family watched, delighted, as they performed an aggressively beautiful mating dance, laid hundreds of eggs, and guarded them fiercely from the other fish. When the eggs hatched, the parents hovered over their tiny fry. About a week later, the babies disappeared. This cycle was repeated several times before my curiosity got the better of me. I spoke with a breeder and learned that they had not been eaten by their parents as I suspected. They had starved. If I wanted to breed them successfully, I’d need a second tank where the fry could be fed a special diet of brine shrimp.

I decided against the second tank; we just did not have the time or space to devote to another project. Still, the thought of the couple’s hopeless endeavor haunted me. Then one day we noticed a survivor. A minuscule swimmer, unmistakable in his diamond shape, riding the tank’s gentle current, bobbing around the leafy vegetation. Thrilled, we rooted for him. As he grew, I wondered how he’d found nourishment and flourished in spite of the odds. I named him Miracle.

On one frozen Colorado morn, I decided that these fish could serve as our herald angels. Their message was clear. If they could weather loss and harrowing events, if they could survive and flourish, then, surely, so could we.

* * *

Sandra Knauf is the one-woman-show behind Greenwoman Publishing. Her books include the six-volume series Greenwoman, (a literary digest), her young adult fantasy novel, Zera and the Green Man, and an anthology of sexy gardening stories that she says is the feminist gardener answer to Fifty Shades of GreyFifty Shades of Green. She was a 2008-09 featured “Colorado Voices” columnist for The Denver Post and her humorous essays have appeared nationally in GreenPrints and MaryJanesFarm. Sandra lives in Colorado Springs, Colorado with her family, dogs, huge urban garden, and lots of books.

Be Our Patron


Filed under Fauna

Sound of Winter


Sound of Winter

Soft through the night the snow doth fall
To blanket walks and fieldstone wall,
It lightly touches trees and vines
And gloves the hands of sleeping pines,
A veil across the street lamps face
A pantomime in frosted lace.

(Poet’s notes: January 11, 1991, 5″ snowfall in New York City)

* * *


Virginia with her grandchildren, Erica and Mikey. Photo by her son Michael.

Virginia Gambardella lives in New York, only three miles from where she grew up. Her dad was a naval engineer and adventurer, and her mom, who sometimes called her “lamb’s lettuce” was a dressmaker for Bergdorf Goodman (she made all of Virginia’s clothes). Virginia has one son and three grandchildren and enjoys: people, holidays, antiques, nature, gardening, fishing, decorating, fashion, sharing knowledge, cooking and baking. She describes herself as “a memory keeper to the extreme”—she even kept her son’s baby teeth. She’s a cancer survivor, a pancreatitis survivor, a widow, and the re-inventor of her life, “as necessary.” She likes to exercise and spends every vacation at the beach with family.


Filed under Garden Writers We Love

Citizen Science


Ginko biloba leaf, Arboretum Volcji Potok. Photo by Mihael Simonič, via Wikimedia Commons.


Citizen Science
December 1, 2016 – Portland, Oregon

Six weeks beyond our usual first frost
ginko leaf-notes fly down the street,
clog gutters. We know this, expect this.

Then an ornamental plum
pushes out shy buds, laced
with caution. Careless.

Spoon tips of daffodils up a half-inch,
hyacinths a quarter. Gold nasturtiums,
the nasturtiums pay no never mind

if we hauled in a Christmas tree,
brushing aside their trailing vines
radiant on the stone path.

Mountain snowpack stacks up,
ski resorts open, and while revelers
rejoice, the valley is rain upon rain.

Let winter come says the sundial
to the valley. Arugula, rose bud,
feverfew, shasta daisies, calendula

and violets are deaf to warnings,
pretend new normals and record
settings are all they know

in this the freezing-over moon.

—Tricia Knoll
* * *

Tricia Knoll is an Oregon poet with two books in print – Ocean’s Laughter (Aldrich Press 2016) and Urban Wild (Finishing Line Press 2014). Website:

Be Our Patron

Leave a comment

Filed under Garden Writers We Love

“We are all interconnected.” The Story of Dr. Jagadish Chandra Bose – Part II


This is my mini-bio about one of our world’s most fascinating (and unsung) scientists. I wrote it a few years ago and it first appeared in Greenwoman Volume 1. Last week I posted Part I in celebration of Dr. Bose’s birthday!

I hope you will find this man’s work, showing how close and connected we are to plants, and, indeed, to all matter, as enlightening as I did.

—Sandra Knauf

* * *

Plant Sleep and “Death Spasms”

Dr. Bose showed that there is no physical response in the most highly organized animal tissue that does not also occur within the plant. His “Researches on Diurnal Sleep” showed that plants react with different intensity depending upon whether it is day or night, and that there is a periodic insensibility in both plants and animals that correspond to what we call sleep. Furthermore, plants’ responses matched animals’ in comparison to what time of day they become alert. By tracking reaction on an impulse through all hours of a day, Bose found that a plant “wakes up during morning slowly, becomes fully alert by noon, and becomes sleepy only after midnight, resembling man in a surprising manner.”
Dr. Bose also showed that plants undergo a “death spasm” at the time of death, that is the same as in animals’. He invented an instrument (Morograph) with which he recorded the critical point of death of a plant.

He also demonstrated that there is an essential unity regarding the effects of drugs on plant and animal tissues and that the effects were determined by the individual plant or animal’s “constitution” (size, strength, health, etc.).

In 1903 Dr. Bose presented research papers to the Royal Society on “Investigation on Mechanical Response in Plants,” “On Polar Effects of Currents on the Stimulation of Plants,” and five other related topics.

These new contributions were seen as important by the Royal Society and the papers were recommended to be published in the Society’s Philosophical Transactions. However, opposition was once again raised and publication ultimately withheld. The Royal Society stated that while Dr. Bose’s discoveries were important they were also so unexpected and so contrary to existing theories that they made the choice to reserve judgment on the research until at some future time the plants themselves could be made to record their answers to questions put to them. This stipulation was interpreted by some as the final rejection of Dr. Bose’s theories, and, worse, the support which he was relying on for his research was in danger of being withdrawn.

Undeterred, Bose directed his attention to a single goal—how to reveal the plants’ reactions by means of their own “autographs.”

In Dr. Bose’s book, Comparative Electro-physiology: A Physico-Physiological Study, he stated that plants, like animals, were single organic wholes, all parts interconnected, their activities coordinated by “conducting strands” which we call in animals, nerves. Positive and negative responses, pleasure and pain, could be determined in all organisms.

Again, Dr. Bose was treading new ground. His view on the function of nerves was seen as alarming—“causing the dividing frontiers between Physics, Physiology, and Psychology to disappear.” At this time, nerves were universally regarded as typically non-motile (or incapable of movement) and theirs responses believed to be characteristically different from those of muscle. Bose showed that nerves were indeed motile and similar to muscle in their responses; through experiment he showed that the isolated vegetal nerve was indistinguishable from that of animal nerve.

It took years for Dr. Bose to design the supersensitive instruments and apparatus which would make it possible to show plant response by means of their own “autographs.” His ingenious “Resonant and Oscillating Recorders” gave a simple and direct method of obtaining a record. “The plant by its self-made records, showed exultation with alcohol, depression with chloroform, rapid transmission of a shock with the application of heat, and an abolition of the propagated impulse with the application of a deadly poison like potassium cyanide. This variation in the transmitted impulse, under physiological variations, showed that it was not a physical one.”

Royal Society

Dr. Bose had achieved what had seemed impossible, creating a mechanism that would enable a plant to tell its own story through records made by its reactions. Through the convincing character of the demonstrations he gave with his Resonant Recorder and other delicate instruments, leading Scientific Societies became convinced and Dr. Bose soon secured a world-wide acceptance of his theories and results. The Royal Society could no longer withhold recognition and his paper, “On an Automatic Method, for the Investigation of the Velocity of Transmission of Excitation in Mimosa,” was published in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society in 1913.

In 1911 Dr. Bose was awarded the insignia of the Companion of the Order of the Star of India by His Majesty the King Emperor, and The Calcutta University conferred the honorary Doctor of Science degree to him. In 1913 he published the book Researches on Irritability of Plants and by 1915 he had received hundreds of invitations to speak throughout the United States. “The very convincing character of the demonstrations that he gave, before the leading Scientific Societies of the world, with his newly invented Resonant Recorder and other delicate instruments, secured a world-wide acceptance of his theories and results.

On January 1, 1917, in recognition of his important scientific work, the English government conferred on him a Knighthood. This was the first time that this honor had been given to an Indian.

Later that year, on his 60th birthday on the 30th of November, Sir Jagadish realized a dream that he’d had for many years. He founded the Bose Institute in India. Here students could study the inhabitants of a garden—plants, vines, trees, and more—in their natural environment. Here, according to the Presidency College Magazine, “the student would watch the panorama of life,” and “isolated from all distractions, would learn to attune himself with nature and to see how community throughout the great ocean of life outweighs apparent the dissimilarity.” Opening this institution of learning, which he dedicated to the Nation, for the progress of Science and for the Glory of India, took his entire life savings.

The aims of the Institute were clear. An article in Modern Review stated that there would be no academic limitation to the widest possible diffusion of knowledge. The facilities of the Institute would be available to workers from all countries and there would be no desecration of knowledge by its utilization for personal gain; in other words, no patents would be taken of the discoveries made there. This “great Seat of Learning” would be  maintained through those means and by presenting lectures that were not secondhand knowledge repeated, but lectures focused on new discoveries announced to the world for the first time. 

A Wise Man’s View of “Failure”:

Sir Jagadish Chandra Bose saw failure as an “antecedent power which lies dormant for the long subsequent dynamic expression in what we call success.”

“And if my life,” he said, “in any way came to be fruitful, then that came through the realization of this lesson.” (From ‘History of a Failure that was Great,’ Modern Review.)


 Sir Jagadis Chunder Bose – His Life and Speeches. Filiquarian Publishing. Madras: The      Cambridge Press, Print.
“The Man who Found a Plant’s Heart.” Literary Digest. 2 Oct. 1926 : 46,50. Print.

Note: Sir Bose’s name is spelled in various ways in different publications.


* * *

Sandra Knauf is the one-woman-show behind Greenwoman Publishing. Her books include the six-volume series Greenwoman, (a literary digest), her young adult fantasy novel, Zera and the Green Man, and an anthology of sexy gardening stories that she says is the feminist gardener answer to Fifty Shades of GreyFifty Shades of Green. She was a 2008-09 featured “Colorado Voices” columnist for The Denver Post and her humorous essays have appeared nationally in GreenPrints and MaryJanesFarm. Sandra lives in Colorado Springs, Colorado with her family, dogs, huge urban garden, and lots of books.


Be Our Patron



Filed under Great Scientists



Photo by Reidar Lunde Lillestøl (Relilles), via Wikimedia Commons.



My leaves are gone;
my branches bare.
My bark is showing!
Please don’t stare.

—Lauren McBride


* * *

Lauren McBride finds inspiration in faith, nature, science and membership in the Science Fiction Poetry Association (SFPA). Nominated for the SFPA’s Rhysling and Dwarf Stars Awards, her work has appeared in numerous speculative, nature, and children’s publications including Bear Creek Haiku, Songs of Eretz, the Aurorean and The Heron’s Nest. She shares a love of laughter and the ocean with her husband and two grown children.



Be Our Patron

Leave a comment

Filed under Green Poetry