Posted to Subscribers on 23 February 2014


Dear Subscribers,

Several people were confused about the mention of pigment in the previous post. It may take more than one effort to make the concept clear. My initial reference was very specific to the sense of sight. The eyes, as noted, function in the 49th vibratory octave, meaning that we only perceive color in that one frequency range. Moreover, we presume that is all that is happening in that octave. This assumption seems very naïve to me but the reality is that we use our senses to validate sense perceptions so there is only a small probability that we will escape this tendency and approach the subject another way. Meanwhile, what the eyes are perceiving or registering is light. We divide this spectrum into as few or an many colors as we like.

This might be one of those situations in which we perceive as we have been taught to perceive. For instance, when I was in school, we were taught that there were three primary colors: red, yellow, and blue. In theory, a rainbow may consist of three colors or perhaps five if we mix the pigments and insert orange between the red and yellow and green between the yellow and blue. We get a sixth color by mixing green and blue, some variation of aqua. How do we get from there to magenta and purple? Some rainbows are not perceived as having those spectrums at all. Some rainbows are drawn with very simple bands making the color separations seem very distinct whereas the reality is that we have countless shades depending on the precise mixture.

Now, of course, we are used to inkjet printers with various cartridges that make up 16 million colors. Our minds cannot wrap themselves around this so we tend still to fragment the spectrum into various boxes to which hexadecimal codes are assigned. Only 140 of the colors have been given "official" names, i.e., names recognized in computer codes. We don't need to go very far down this path if one simple postulate is put on the table. This is that we see what we have been taught to see so whether or not we put purple in our drawings of rainbows is probably very much influenced by matters best sorted out by anthropologists with a special interest in how brains function in different cultures.

Okay, I got out of the box. The next point is that even though the eyes are in the head, the perception of colors or ability to perceive them is also influenced to some degree by the liver and how it functions. This is very much the case with issues such as floaters but glaucoma and cataracts also have a relationship to liver function. Eating foods that are supposedly good for the eyes, like foods that are high in carotenoids, would not affect the eyes unless the digestive system did something with the chemicals that supported vision. Interestingly, while we tend to think of carrots when we think of the eyes, carotenoids actually absorb blue light that protects both plants and animals from damage due to light. In the case of plants, the light is needed for photosynthesis. When light ignites chloroplasts, chemical energy is formed. We can more or less measure the efficiency of this process by the color of the plant since chlorophyll is green. When there is sufficient sunlight, leaves seem to be green. In reality, this is kind of like a suntan for the leaves. Well, I take liberties sometimes. However, let's imagine that a vacationer goes to the beach and gets a tan. This tan hides the normal color of the skin and will fade when the individual has not been in the sun for a while. Likewise, chlorophyll masks the true color of leaves until the weather changes and the leaves "turn" yellow or red, rather they lose chlorophyll and they were already yellow or red.

These pigments are the primary antioxidants. They protect chlorophyll in the growing season and protect us when we ingest the plants. So, our livers and eyes both benefit when we ingest these antioxidants. These colors are obvious in ripe fruits and vegetables but they are also present even when masked by chlorophyll. Since carotenoids are not synthesized by humans, they must be ingested. The anthocyanins mentioned in the last post are also antioxidants, but they are red, blue, or purple, depending partly on pH. They are also protective against damage from light, but they are found in many plant parts, not merely leaves. You see them clearly in colorful berries and in autumn but not because the chlorophyll is masking the presence — as with the carotenoids — but because they are formed later in the growing season when ripe.

Just as plants produce pigments as a result of chemical changes, so humans also have pigments or lack thereof that are affected by the body's functioning. A few years ago, I discussed this at length in a series of posts about hair, archived here:

All hair is white. The color comes from two different types of melanin. Stress or shock cause a secretion of hydrogen peroxide that bleaches the pigment. Whether or not the color returns depends on the ability to replenish the pigments and manage the stress in a manner that limits the production of hydrogen peroxide.

After the disaster in Fukushima, the issue arose again with the melanin needed to protect both animals and plants from radiation. To understand this better, we can compare the incidence of skin cancer among fair-skinned persons, especially the type that is prone to freckles, and people who are naturally darker because of the abundance of melanin. If my mother was right, then certain races have had countless generations to adapt to intense sun so they have better protection from both ultraviolet and gamma radiation. However, if you take my Scandinavian genes, you can easily see that the skin gets darker in the summer and the hair gets darker in the winter. I.e., there is so little bioavailable pigment that it chooses to locate where most needed depending on the climate. For the record, I have found that I can increase the available amount by eating foods that are colorful. This is another reason to avoid white bread and pasta and to eat more fruits, vegetables, and herbs.

When the body is inefficient in managing pigmented matter, blotches may appear on the skin. This is because the skin is an enormous "organ" that acts as an auxiliary eliminatory organ when the normal channels are not up to the job. In this instance, we are not, however, talking about valuable pigments but something more like "rust". Just as some leaves turn brown, not because of carotenoids but because of death, some of us have waste products that try to escape through the skin. We sometimes call these liver spots, but if we clean up the liver, the spots tend to go away. This can take many months though the progress in the first two months tends to be dramatic. After this time, the progress is gradual and much harder to observe but the protocols can be continued for two years if there is a lifetime accumulation of toxins or some particular exposure to a toxin such as Agent Orange or some venom.

As with most protocols, the beginning efforts may place more value on detoxification, but this is followed by tonification, regeneration, and rejuvenation.

Now, I want to change the subject a bit and talk about planting. As you know, I started about five years ago. As with most things in my life, the gestation period was quite long, but there were a couple of pivotal points between birth and the launch of the site. One was a series of photographs of a lake that was clearly vanishing as a result of human mismanagement of the ecosystem. The person showing the pictures to me claimed that the use of agricultural chemicals was acidifying the soil in a manner that required more and more water for growing.

The second big event was the exposure to the theories of Masanobu Fukuoka, author of One Straw Revolution. In the English translation of his book, there is reference to "God" but, in Japanese, the word is not "kamisama" but "mu", the character I used in the header of the web site. In the translations I heard in a documentary filmed in India a few years before Fukuoka-sensei passed away, the references were always to "Nature" but we have to have a context for understanding the thinking of this important visionary. Fukuoka-sensei was trained in science but he was a keen observer, and what he saw was that when man touched Nature, the consequences were catastrophic. He set about to understand Nature by observing Her more closely.

I can give some very simple examples and then some better ones. Plants drop their seeds at the end of the growing season so the seeds are on the ground, airborne, or moved about by insects and animals until it is time for them to germinate. He came to advocate cleaning seeds and creating mixtures of seeds that are rolled into clay balls and tossed into fields. School children love making the balls and throwing them, but then Nature decides which will germinate. As he came to understand the complex relationships between plants, he realized that watering is bad for plants. If even one tree has a deep root, it will provide moisture for everything else, but constant watering — not to mention flooding of rice paddies — weakens plants and inclines towards rot in the roots.

"Mu" is a word that defies translation. In Zen literature, it is often translated as "nothingness" but no one is actually saying that "emptiness" is a void but rather perhaps a state in which no effort is made to change what is. As such, it is natural and effortless. Fukuoka-sensei thus became the father, not merely of permaculture, but of the Zen of gardening, not of carefully crafted gardens used for meditation but of abundant production without tilling, without digging, without fertilizing, and without weeding. Realizing that it would take years to rebuild soil and fertility, I liked the idea of methods that would not tax my aging body. Besides, I have a lot to do besides weeding and watering.

Late last night, I tried to take my own understanding of permaculture a step further and today I posted a page with some important videos:

I titled it desertification because modern agricultural methods are precipitating crises. Two of the videos on that page are ones I have previously recommended. One is about the work done by Geoff Lawton in the Dead Sea, surely proof that the ideas have merit. The second is about the Loess Plateau in China, filmed by John Liu who has also documented similar projects in Africa. The third is new and is based on the theories of Sepp Holzer, another keen observer of Nature. He is very much more concerned with water than are the others. What is important about the work of Holzer is that instead of relying on trees to water the surrounding plants, Holzer is using water to absorb sunlight and reflect it off rocks and thereby to create ecozones within less hospitable areas that support incredible biodiversity. What he proves is that if one digs a hole, it will fill with water, pristine water if managed correctly. Though Fukuoka and Holzer are more or less on the same page with respect to allowing Nature to choose where to grow what, Holzer does modify Nature more than his Japanese colleague. In any event, the third video documents a project in Portugal and demonstrates that arid lands can become fertile and productive.

I realize I am merely cataloguing what others have done, but I am also happy to report that my own projects have been successful. Moreover, as an observer, it is interesting to me that the dandelions simply retreated but when this happened, the foxglove came up in spades. It's very beautiful but just one chapter of a saga whose tale is not complete.

Each growing season, I have tried to concentrate on one major undertaking. The first year, the goal was to allow herbs and flowers to take over the space occupied by the lawn. I did not dig up any grass but the grass succumbed to the strategy. If I had it to do over again, I would start slightly differently, but there are thousands of videos now compared to a handful before. Once I took on the ethical mission of replacing conventional landscaping with practical plants, my attention went to the pollinators. Everything I did in the second and most of the third year was about bees and butterflies. Interestingly, hummingbirds came later. Then came Fukushima and I wanted an abundance of radioprotective herbs as well as those that helped with DNA repair, blood building, and stamina. This year will be the antioxidant year though I have already planted a lot of berries.

Like any garden that is properly managed, the soil improves little by little and the plants get bigger and stronger. I do however want to emphasize that I am doing this in a Zen-like way. I hardly make any effort at all. I actually spend more time taking pictures than planting! A harvest consists of going out before dinner and cutting something that looks delicious . . . and I always take time to express my gratitude because I doubt any plants like to have their leaves cut.

I would urge you to watch these videos because even if you only have a few pots on a window sill, every step towards sustainability, towards environmental custodianship, and towards food sovereignty is important.

Many blessings,



Copyright by Ingrid Naiman 2014


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