True confession: I’m equally drawn to, and repulsed by, the macabre. It has always been thus. I think it’s because when the disgusting exists in the world, I want to find out why and how.
Because of this, if I ever find myself in the vicinity of Waycross, Georgia again (please, God, no…) I will have to stop in to see the Southern Forest World Museum. I do love a good Environmental Center, and from the looks of it, this is a good one, indeed. It seems to get universally fantastic reviews, and the images on the website are intriguing.
But I’d go there mainly to see Stuckie. Poor, poor Stuckie. What a story.
Back in 1980, a chestnut oak was chopped down and sawed into logs, and then placed on a lumber truck. That’s when Stuckie was first discovered. He was a hound dog, and he was mummified in the hollow of the tree.
It’s estimated he had been trapped in that tree for at least 20 years when he was found. And he’s still in that tree to this day. He’s on display in the museum. (I first learned of him by reading the amazing book Lab Girl, which I highly recommend.)
We’ll probably never know how Stuckie got in that tree. The most plausible theory is that he chased a racoon and got stuck. I hope he didn’t suffer much. After that, it was perfect conditions, wind that blew away the smell of his dying body, which meant that destructive bugs weren’t attracted to the site, and dry conditions within the stump, that caused Stuckie to arrive at his present state. It sure makes me wonder what is inside the trees that I pass by every day.
I can’t help thinking that somewhere in the 50’s, some poor family lost a beloved member, and never knew why. They probably searched and searched, and maybe even came heartbreakingly close to finding him. That makes me very sad, indeed.
RIP Stuckie, if you can, with so many people staring at you.
I consider myself a strong, intelligent woman who is equally left- and right-brained. By this I mean that I’m analytical and fascinated by all things scientific, but I’m also creative and love to write. So it was gratifying to come across the book Lab Girl by Hope Jahren, because she can be described in the exact same way.
Hope is a professor of geobiology at the University of Oslo. Science is her passion as well as her bread and butter. Because of that, you’d think that any book she wrote about her life and career would be dry and pedantic. But no.
This book is a work of art. Read it. Seriously. You’ll be glad you did.
This is not just a book about plants, although if you read it you’ll learn all sorts of amazing things about them, and you’ll never look at a tree in the same way again. For me, though, what it is about, more than anything, is friendship.
Woven throughout this book is her relationship with her senior research laboratory manager, Bill. They have worked together in various labs around the world for 25 years. Theirs is not a romance. It’s something better. It’s unconditional, platonic love and respect. It’s dedication. It’s mutual support. It’s the kind of relationship that all of us aspire to, and most of us only dream about.
The book also talks about being a woman who chooses a career in a male-dominated field, which is something to which I can definitely relate. It’s also about mental health, and finding your place in this world, and never quite feeling like you fit in. It’s about being misunderstood by many, except for the most important people in your life. And in the end, that’s all that matters.
And it is amazingly well written. I keep a quote book where I save passages from books that really resonate with me. Here are some of the ones I plan to save from Lab Girl.
“He (her father) taught me that there is no shame in breaking something, only in not being able to fix it.”
“Each beginning is the end of a waiting.”
“In Georgia, when someone walks up to you wearing overalls with no shirt underneath them, it is unlikely that something good is about to happen.”
“A cactus doesn’t live in the desert because it likes the desert; it lives there because the desert hasn’t killed it yet.”
“Being paid to wonder seems like a heavy responsibility at times.”
Because of this author, I went out and planted ten trees. How many people have gotten you to do that? And hey, she has inspired me to write a future posts about Stuckie the Mummified Dog and about Anomalocaris, “a segmented marine insect the size of a Labrador retriever” that, thanks be to God, no longer exists. Now if that doesn’t intrigue you, nothing will.