The whole book was great, but Chapter 3 made me dizzy. I’ll admit that it could have been caffeine, but when I finished reading Chapter 3 of Hope Jahren’s memoir Lab Girl I felt dizzy, giddy, and inspired. It’s a great chapter, and a great book.
This is the first paragraph of Chapter 3 of Lab Girl:
A seed knows how to wait. Most seeds wait for at least a year before starting to grow; a cherry seed can wait for a hundred years with no problem. What exactly each seed is waiting for is known only to that seed. Some unique trigger-combination of temperature-moisture-light and many other things is required to convince a seed to jump off the deep end and take its chance-to take its one and only chance to grow.
This is the last paragraph of Chapter 3:
Each beginning is the end of a waiting. We are each given exactly one chance to be. Each of us is both impossible and inevitable. Every replete tree was first a seed that waited.
“Impossible and inevitable” – I love it. I’ve been walking around looking at trees a lot lately and the book has inspired many questions that I can’t answer. I’ve been dealing with a lot of cherry pits as well. They could be trees in a hundred years? It’s wild. Lab Girl is a great book about persistence and research scientists and friendship and trees. It’s a great book about mental and personality anomalies. The first sentence of the book claims that, “There is nothing in the world more perfect than a slide rule.” And then she explains. I love how, in some ways, this collection of stories and sentences and pain and failure help redeem the experiences.
Hope says this (on page 29) about science and writing, which aptly sums up where some of my mental space has been recently:
Science has taught me that everything is more complicated than we first assume, and that being able to derive happiness from discovery is a recipe for a beautiful life. It has also convinced me that carefully writing everything is the only real defense we have against forgetting something important that once was and is not more, including the spruce tree that should have outlived me but did not.
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