Of Corn, Mice, and Men

You can have too much of a good thing. For me, a few of these good things are corn, mice, and men.

I should explain, that corn was the subject of my graduate thesis in genetics. It was a good thing for me, but I had way too much of it. Mice were the subjects of my post graduate fellowship, and men, well you know. While I can’t say that a person is a thing, I can say that romantic attachments to men were a fascination of mine, a weakness, for a time. A long time.

My neighbors have planted corn in the tiny backyard plot behind their small apartment. With the tall fence between our tiny backyards I should not have noticed except that when the tassels shed pollen I’m in allergic misery. This is because of two summers, long ago, of growing many varieties of odd mutant corn plants, and setting up genetic crosses with other varieties, or self pollinating them. During this time I became hypersensitive to corn pollen.

Huge amounts of pollen shed all at once at a certain time of morning from the corn tassels. Those pretty flowers on top of corn stalks are the male part of the plant, and clouds of lovely white gold powder float down from them on the slightest breeze. For two summers I collected the pollen in bags and sifted it onto the silks of receptive ears of corn on the stalks, these are the female parts of the plants. As the kernels on the ears of corn mature, the crosses reveal genetic potential of hidden genes. They taught me about how genes were controlled, in corn. The last few months of research I had to take antihistamines nearly continuously and now any bit of corn pollen sets me off searching for medication.

Mice were the subjects of my experiments in the lab where I was trying to uncover the controlling elements of viral diseases like hepatitis B. Lab mice are very soft and cute, with personalities and lives of their own. I spent many hours day after day in the mouse room handling mice, changing their food and water in the little boxes they lived in there. After several years in that line of research I can say that I firmly believe mice belong in fields with grass, and not in the lab. One of my stories in “Death and the Dream” goes into this topic in more detail, “Mouse Chimera” so no spoilers here. Working with mice, I became hypersensitive to mouse hair and if I had not chosen to stop working with mice, I would have had to stop due to the allergy.

It took more than allergies for me to come to the breakthrough that romance was not necessary, and to let a focus on men fall away. I really did have too much of that particular good thing. In the ancient spiritual texts from India on desires and the absence of desires, it’s often discussed that a thing like fire is not put out by putting more fuel on the fire. Allergies are like that, and in my case even allergies to my work. Sometimes, having more of a good thing, a thing you love, does not satisfy but makes a craving only stronger.

Unless of course it is one of those good things that get better the more you have of them, of which there are few. The bliss from quiet meditation, the pleasure of finishing writing a story – these are a few of mine. When I finish writing a story, I do enjoy writing the next one even more. While it is a love, it is not an addiction.

What are some of yours, the good things that get better?

Related links: you may also be interested in Short Stories “Death and the Dream” available at http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/death-and-the-dream-jennifer-j-brown/1104803325 and book retailers world wide, as print and ebook editions.

7 thoughts on “Of Corn, Mice, and Men

  1. At the risk of sounding like a hopeless romantic, I would have to say love. It changes through the years and, at least in my case, those changes have made it better. I’m more tolerant, more giving, and more appreciate of those I love.

  2. I can relate to your pleasure of finishing writing a piece. I have just completed what will be the first version of my final dissertation chapter. And on re reading it, I love it and am actually starting to think about what to write when this path is completed.
    Allergies, oh dear! We are coming into spring here in Australia so you can imagine the amount of pollen floating around.
    But I do love being out in nature, going for a walk of an afternoon after a day at the computer. It is my ‘walking meditation’. And inspiring others to believe they can achieve their goals too gives me much happiness.

  3. J.J. Brown, Jennifer, I never knew that was your name. I have followed your interesting tweets for some time, I will have to read some of your work some time.
    The allergies I totally understand the allergies. I lost most of my hair and doctors best guess are allergies and stress.
    Things that get better with time, my writing, the speed at which I read, my understanding and insight grows with my knowledge of what I don’t know. Riding my motorcycle by myself, Wonderful insightful and thought provoking post.

  4. Jennifer! While I cannot really speak to mice or men, an allergy to corn pollen is one of the many reasons I have moved from Wisconsin, where I grew up, to Southern California.
    As for the good things that get better, I agree about the bliss of quiet meditation and the pleasure of finishing writing a story. I would add listening to people, getting healthy, and excellent craft beer.
    Thank you.


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