A refreshing spring break
by Lorien E. Menhennett
Last week was my much-welcomed spring break. I spent a few days of it in Chicago visiting my much-missed family. As usual, we talked, laughed, played games, watched movies, ate wonderful food, and drank beer and sparkling wine (not simultaneously, of course).
I also made a trek back to the Garfield Park Conservatory. I’ve been visiting this gigantic, tropical greenhouse since before I can remember, and posted about my time there at Christmas. One reason I love Garfield Park is that every time I go, I discover something new. Sometimes, it’s at a seasonal flower show. Other times, I come across something that’s always been there and I simply see it in a new way. Both happened during this most recent visit.
When I went last Friday, the spring flower show was underway. I’ve never seen such vibrant azaleas or Persian buttercups.
In the fern room, a childhood favorite for games of hide-and-seek, I noticed unusual patterns of fern spores. Usually, fern spores aggregate in little round, brown balls that line the underside of the leaves. But I discovered that they arrange themselves in other beautiful ways — in straight lines and in zig-zags, for example.
Part of how you see things depends on your perspective. And I was looking at the plants as a medical student. So when I saw a plant called Schismatoglottis (pictured at left), I immediately thought the placard read “Schistosomiasis” — a nasty parasitic worm you contract by exposure to infected water.
And looking at the miniature silver nerve plant, I had flashbacks to our brain and behavior unit last fall. The veins in the leaves do bear resemblance to axons and dendrites.
I found unexpected humor at the conservatory too. In the same room where my sisters and I had run amok as kids, I saw this gardener’s bin. I’m glad to see childhood playfulness is still welcomed — even encouraged.
And now, after such a refreshing spring break, it’s time to get ready for my next clerkship: primary care.