MY FRIENDS CAN READ IT FOR FREE (Excerpt 23 from THE HARVEST of REASON) John had been in Puerto Rico for over two months. He had left at the beginning of the summer to supervise the harvest and had stayed for further processing and seed preparation…READ MORE

(if you’re here for the first time look at excerpts 1-22 in earlier Blogs )

Part II

Whither can a lover go but to the land of his beloved? and what seeker findeth rest away from his heart’s desire? To the true lover reunion is life, and separation is death. His breast is void of patience and his heart hath no peace. A myriad lives he would forsake to hasten to the abode of his beloved.

The Hidden Words

With the eye of God he beholdeth the mysteries of divine creation.

The Seven Valleysn

Chapter 7

John had been in Puerto Rico for over tw o months. He had left at the beginning of the summer to supervise the harvest and had stayed for further processing and seed preparation for the next planting season. Things didn’t stop; they just kept planting year round in Puerto Rico’s warm climate.
He had never had such a rotten time. The hard work had been the only balm for his mental turmoil. He had felt like an exile, not knowing what was happening back in Madison. Not knowing whether he had lost forever the woman he was obsessed about. Huh! That was a joke. How could he lose something he’d never had?
Now, as his plane approached Madison’s airport, he dreaded what coming home might mean. It might mean finding out that Maddie and Craig Berry were a definite item. He had left without knowing anything for sure. Somehow, in that uncertainty there had still been hope.
He’d had some newsy e-mails from Lisa. She said she’d dumped Ernie, which was good. But she had only mentioned Maddie once. She said she’d been down to the summer concert series at the Union Terrace with Maddie and that the concerts were great. She described how they had jumped off the little pier into the lake that day, because it was so hot, and that after dancing some more to the sound of the rock band they’d gotten hot all over again.
That was all she had said about Maddie. And it had been extremely frustrating to try to read between the lines. If Maddie was hanging out with Lisa on the weekends, did that mean she didn’t have a boyfriend after all? Or was it just a fluke that she and Lisa had gone out together that day? And maybe Craig had been there with them, although it didn’t seem so, since Lisa hadn’t mentioned Craig by name. He had to conjure up from Lisa’s fragmentary description an image of Maddie, emerging from the lake dripping wet. He pictured the beads of water on her gold-brown hair refracting the sunlight, the long leggy look of her, and the mischievous smile on her face.
He had lived like a monk in Puerto Rico. Not because this had been his intention. He thought at first he could make himself forget the obsession he had been living with in Madison. But it seemed he was now cursed with a disinterest in other women. That business about “chastity” had affected his libido. Damn the woman! How could he let anyone do this to him?
He heard a shattering noise and looked down at his hands. He had crushed the plastic cup he’d been holding. Luckily, it was empty. As the plane prepared for its descent his stomach tightened in anticipation.

John walked into the grad student office and set his bags down in the corner. Nobody was around, so he went to knock on Dr. Pinkerton’s door. He came out an hour later after a thorough debriefing session. As was expected, no thanks, no praise. But Dr. Pinkerton had been hard pressed to find anything to criticize either.
He walked casually across the hall into Dr. Gates’ graduate student office and found it empty also. He concluded the whole crew must be up at Hancock.
It was two days before he saw Maddie, in the distance, across the field at Hancock. Everyone seemed to be busy with their own harvest now, rushing against time and the impending frost.
Dr. Gates’ crew took a late lunch, which only overlapped by a few minutes with his own. As their van pulled up and the crew filed into the building to use the washrooms, he once again marveled that she could look so good in old clothes. When she came out of the building she noticed him under the tree.
“Hello, welcome back,” she said.
Well that was something. She’d noticed he was gone!
Noticing you were gone is a long way from actually missing you, man!

But Maddie had missed him. Everything had been kind of flat for two months. Only now, seeing John again, did she realize that perhaps his absence was part of the reason why the last few months had seemed like a lot of drudgery. A long, boring summer. She’d made a lot of progress, but nothing had seemed as interesting. She realized John Pitts’ vitality brought a kind of excitement to any setting he was in. That was the kind of person he was, just the life of the party! She wasn’t about to get distracted by his antics, but if he could make things livelier around the department, then she was glad he was back.
At one point in the afternoon Maddie stood in the middle of her field of beans and looked around. She had seen these plants germinate, grow, flower, set pods and now, as they approached maturity, she felt they were old friends. She knew every single one of them, not just the different lines (which were represented by the rows), but also the individual plants within the rows. She had been over the plots so many times, taking readings for each disease at different times during the growing season. She prayed the correlation would still be there once the notebooks full of data were properly analyzed. That the resistance she thought she had identified last spring, for Rusty Leaf Spot and Bean Lesion Virus, would hold up in the transfer to the cultivated lines. Field-testing was, in essence, the ultimate proof.
She surveyed the experiment once more, taking in the whole forest this time, instead of just the trees. Maturity would come early this year, due to unusually strong ozone pollution. She noticed that much of the field was displaying yellow leaves with the telltale bronzing signs of ozone damage. She knew the cultivated parent she had crossed with the wild lines was highly susceptible to ozone pollution. But as she walked among the rows she began to see, here and there, a few rows that remained green, and the leaves did not have the rusty cast to them. Other rows had a few plants within them that were distinctly greener than their siblings. As if by magic, a pattern began to emerge. Her trained eye saw that these deviants were sprinkled throughout the entire field. Gene segregation! Some plants were resistant and others susceptible.
She began to feel a prickle of excitement. She had not originally included ozone damage in the list of diseases she was screening. Could she have serendipitously stumbled upon resistance to ozone pollution in one of the wild parents?
Quickly, she began to take notes on the row numbers, but then decided this was not enough. She had to find a way to tag the plants, so that she would know at harvest time which seeds to sample for lab analysis and what the ratio of resistant to susceptible was. This ratio would help her determine the number of genes involved in resistance. But she knew that what was visible today, the variability she was witnessing, might soon be gone. Ozone damage caused susceptible plants to turn yellow weeks earlier, but in a few more weeks all the plants would turn yellow. She hurried back to the van to see if she could find some tags.
“What do you want tags for?” Edgar wanted to know.
She told him what she had observed.
“Oh, that’s just delayed maturity. Whenever you have lines with a wild parent you see that. I’ve seen it a million times.”
“Well, I don’t think so,” Maddie answered. “I thought of that, but there are lines without any damage, it’s not just delayed maturity. I think it’s a good idea to look into it.”
“Suit yourself. But you’re going to be doing a whole lot of work for nothing. And I’m still leaving at five o’clock. So you got less than an hour,” he said.
Though slightly deflated by his attitude, she was determined to follow her intuition. She worked as fast as she could but by five o’clock she had covered less than half of the field. Edgar was unwilling to extend his deadline. She rubbed her sweaty forehead. She wouldn’t be able to come back to Hancock this week. She had too much to do. She looked around, desperately, and noticed Dr. Pinkerton’s crew still hard at work across the field.
“Can you drive me over there? I’ll see if I can catch a ride home with them. It doesn’t look like they’re wrapping up just yet.”
“Oh, they won’t be going home anytime soon now that John’s back,” Edgar scoffed. “You won’t be leaving here till eight o’clock.”
Perfect! She thought.



Hey! I’m really interested in your comments.* Please join this global bookclub discussion by leaving a comment below (in the comments box)

QUESTION 23: How does it feel when Nature shares a glimpse of a secret?

*(feel free to post your own question for group discussion)

*(you can also post your comment on facebook and start your own discussion with friends)



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About rheaharmsen

Rhea Harmsen is a scientist, novelist and author of Language of the Spirit, a volume of selected poems. She has also released three novels, The Harvest of Reason, Intermarry, and God Created Women. Harmsen was born in a family with a black father and a white mother at a time when interracial marriage was still illegal in some states. Her parents gave her a vision of world citizenship that informs her writing and her lifestyle and has caused her to reject traditional views of race and gender. Harmsen's article "Science in the Hands of Women: Present Barriers, Future Promise" appeared in World Order in 1998 and provides the foundation for the story line for her novel The Harvest of Reason. She co-published the Monroeville Race Unity Forum Bulletin and authored many poems on racial topics, crystallizing the "conversation on race" in the novel Intermarry. Her work with domestic violence survivors in Puerto Rico inspired the novel God Created Women. Harmsen holds a doctorate in Plant Breeding and Plant Genetics from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She currently resides in Puerto Rico. Upcomming projects are described in her web page at
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