Another excerpt from the work in progress:
Friday came, and Jeanne felt exhausted after a day in her laboratory, a day alone where she tried not to ruminate about the offer she had rejected or the threat to her chances for full professor. She sat on her couch and put on some U2, listening to the call to righteous action. Something blossomed in her, the memory of her childhood when she began studying the plants in her yard, when she felt something greater than herself. Her imagination, she thought, when she had used it.
That evening, she almost didn’t go to the cafe to meet Josh. She knew he’d be disappointed if she wasn’t there. And maybe there would be comfort for her
She arrived early to find Josh already sitting at the table, head bent over what she learned was his always available notebook. He looked up as she sat down across from him and put away his notebook. His eyes searched hers; his smile upon greeting her shaded quickly to concern.
“What’s up?” Jeanne asked.
“Not much. I was just writing. You look wiped out — the Growesta stuff?” asked Josh.
Jeanne nodded. “It’s not over yet. The dean tried to put a GMO plot next to my research plot; it would have destroyed the conditions of my research. He backed down on that. Then he berated me, berated my work, and doubled down on the threat to keep me from getting the promotion.
“The worst part of it for me is that I can’t do anything about it. No matter how hard I try, the body of my work will not be judged by its worth. I’m not used to being powerless over a situation.” Jeanne grimaced. “But the alternative is betraying Gaia.”
“Gaia. You’ve mentioned that before. You talk about Gaia as if it’s a being.” Josh glanced toward his notebook and pen and apparently decided against it.
“Well, that’s the hypothesis,” Jeanne explained. “That the earth is a living organism, a whole organism based on systems. I believe that it’s more a metaphor than something to be taken literally; at any rate, I don’t want to be promoting Growesta’s need to extend its market share. I’ll allow that factory farming and the monoculture systems it creates are a necessary evil until alternative farming systems can be created or resurrected. But I need to work toward the alternative.”
“So what now?” Josh asked.
“What now? There’s nothing I can do.”
“Yes, there is,” Josh insisted, taking her hand. “If you have no control over what happens, you have nothing to lose. What would you be doing if full professorship wasn’t in question?”
The warmth of his hand startled her; she didn’t want to pull away. Jeanne paused. “Much the same as I have been doing, but … ” She thought. “I wouldn’t worry so much.”
“About what?” Josh inquired, and she found herself looking down from his penetrating gaze.
Jeanne considered. The wayward scents, the behemoth plant in her greenhouse. Gaia as a living thing rather than metaphor. There was a time when she would allow herself thoughts, fancies she didn’t have to prove. She ruthlessly pruned them away with scientific method. “About how I think. About Gaia. I used to have imagination. I used to be able to embrace fuzzy concepts like Gaia as an organism, even …” Jeanne paused. “Then there was college, and graduate school, and the scientific method. I began to let go of that part of me.”
“Why do you want that part of you back?”
Jeanne remembered a prior conversation, and how it put tendrils in her mind while she fought against Growesta, against her Dean, against the injustice of being denied credit for her work. “It was something you said the other day. About the unseen world? I used to believe in that. It fueled my desire to go into my field. But then …” Jeanne faltered. The scent of spice viburnum wafted through Jeanne’s consciousness. It would be weeks before those flowers bloomed.
“How can I help?” Josh asked. “I seem to have planted the seed.”
“Tell me about this unseen world.” The scent of flowers grew stronger.