Monday, August 13, 2012

How big is a hazel nut?

As the season wends its wet and weary way towards autumn, some of the berries and nuts in field and hedge are ripening.  Our rowan berries have already turned red and I noticed these hazel nuts before the grey squirrels did:

20120801 BHW hazel nuts (22)

How different they are from the tiny flowers with their crimson stamens from which they develop and, of course, from the male catkins.  How, I wonder, do the genes decide to  code for a either a catkin or a nut, or indeed a leaf, and then proceed to produce these intricate structures that each has a set form but are never, I suppose, identical.  The mysteries of morphogenesis.

Maybe Julian of Norwich in the 14th century was on to something when she wrote:

  • He shewed me a little thing, the quantity of an hazel-nut, in the palm of my hand; and it was as round as a ball.  I looked thereupon with eye of my understanding, and thought: What may this be? And it was answered generally thus: It is all that is made.  I marvelled how it might last, for methought it might suddenly have fallen to naught for little.  And I was answered in my understanding: It lasteth, and ever shall for that God loveth it. And so All-thing hath the Being by the love of God.
  • In this Little Thing I saw three properties. The first is that God made it, the second is that God loveth it, the third, that God keepeth it. But what is to me verily the Maker, the Keeper, and the Lover, — I cannot tell; for till I am Substantially oned to Him, I may never have full rest nor very bliss: that is to say, till I be so fastened to Him, that there is right nought that is made betwixt my God and me.

These days she would probably be a particle physicist working at the Large Hadron Collider (but maybe she is!) .