Tuesday, 6 October 2009

The Rhythm of Life ....

Fire and Water those necessities of life have some interesting attributes. The Earth has known fire for over 400 million years. The reason is simple: Life made it possible. Marine life pumped the atmosphere full of oxygen; terrestrial life lathered the crust with fuels.

Water in three states: liquid, solid (ice), and (invisible) water vapor in the air. Clouds are the accumulations of the droplets, condensed from vapor-saturated air.
When oxygen and fuel meet a spark under the right circumstances, a fire kindles. (Lightning is an ancient and ample ignitor.) The fundamental chemistry of combustion lies at the core of the living world. When it happens with a cell, it’s called respiration. When it happens outside organisms, it’s called fire. It’s that basic. (taken from How Plants Use Fire (And are Used by It) – by Stephen J Pyne)
Living systems have had to adjust to fire in order to survive. Fire, in itself, has a rhythm of heat. A climatic basis exists for fire’s regimes, and this relies on rhythms of wetting and drying. A place must be wet enough to grow combustibles and dry enough to ready them for burning.
These rhythms mean that fires thrive in a kind of habitat. Fires in grasslands burn one way; fires in a rainforest another; fires in temperate conifers in several ways, sometimes skipping along the surface, sometimes soaring through dense crowns.

Indeed, varieties of each kind of fire exist. Even grassfires may burn with the wind or against it; they may creep and smoulder or rage at the pace of a galloping horse. But rough patterns do emerge, and all the animals and plant life in that region adapt to these patterns, much as they would to patterns of rainfall.

Fire from the heavens, lightning has kindled wildfire for millions of years, causing plants over the eons to adapt or die out. (c/o Pyne)
Over the years life has coped with fire, or we wouldn’t be here – some trees and plants, such as the banksias and proteas have adapted by growing an impervious layer of bark, so that the tree can re-sprout once the danger has past, or burst nuts spreading the seeds onto the fresh ash to rejuvenate. Fire does not necessarily advance out of control; fire can only burn that part of the landscape that is available to burn. Plants thus do shape the kinds of fires they may experience.

Humans, on the other hand, are the only creatures that can manipulate fire. As Stephen J Pyne says our ancient ancestors made a Faustian pact. We gained fire, which brought power; in return we agreed to manage fire. We cannot ignore fire, because (now) no neutral position is possible.

If we set fires without thought, uncontrollable biota will spring up, changing the fundamentals of that landscape. Plants and fauna have taken many millennia to evolve and adapt to their particular habitat; while at the same time become active agents in shaping those landscapes by their grazing, browsing and hunting habits, each of which determines what kind of fuel is available for burning.

Dew drops adhering to a spider web.
So as well as the scavengers hunting along the edge of the fire for the snakes, insects or larger creatures moving head of the flaming front, some beetles possess infrared seeking organs that help direct them to smouldering stumps and logs, where they will feed and nest. Animals have adapted by flying away, or burrowing deep, or skirting the fire – very few actually become trapped.
The ancient Greeks and alchemists thought that fire was an element, as they considered earth, air and water to be elements. Fire, however, is made up of many different substances (hot gases), so in modern definition terms it is not considered an element.

Water on the other hand is an element, being composed of hydrogen and oxygen, and is essential for all known forms of life. Water usually refers to its liquid form, but if you think about it, no other substance is found simultaneously as a liquid, in solid form as ice or as a gas.

We’re made of 70% water .. yet water is the most destructive substance on the planet, it can dissolve almost anything – sooner or later water eats away everything. Water is strange. It takes more energy to heat water than it does to heat iron. Hot water freezes faster than cold water.
Fynbos, South Africa: Because fire is common in this ecosystem and the soil has limited nutrients, it is most efficient for plants to produce many seeds and then die in the next fire.

Aristotle (384BC – 322BC) first promulgated that hot water freezes faster than cold, while Sir Francis Bacon (1561 – 1626: the English philosopher, statesman, scientist, lawyer and jurist) actually demonstrated the effect, which Rene Descartes (the French philosopher, mathematician and physicist) in the 1600s also confirmed.
Pearl Shoal Waterfall, western Sichuan, China.

It was not until a Tanzanian schoolboy, Erasto Mpemba, questioned why his ice-cream froze faster, when it was placed first and without cooling first into the freezer – he was trying to beat the other students to ensure he had a place in the freezer, only to be surprised when his froze first. Schoolboy pester power prevailed and eventually he was rewarded by the scientific community confirming that in certain conditions this effect happens and is now known as the Mpemba effect.

So water and fire each have these weird attributes and we cannot do without either; we have adapted to live with them, while over many many eons plants and fauna also adapted to these patterns of fire, much as they have done to patterns of rainfall, and will continue to do so, probably long after the human race has gone.

Dear Mr Postman - it’s a busy time: but my mother continues to astonish me and others! Of course the Melbourne reference was to Cook’s Cottage being translocated from England to Melbourne – that’s why she went! My uncle came up to Kestrel and has been very up and down, sometimes very down .. but he loves his visitors, is still hugely interested in politics and the day to day happenings in the newspaper!
My cousin’s two daughters came down today to see my uncle, and I was telling Mum that Sarah and Anna would be here and reminding her that we went to Sarah’s wedding last year .. my mother then reminded me about the wobbly cake: I had shown her a photograph - a year ago! Anna was propping up the ‘wobbly wedding cake’, so it didn’t collapse onto the lawn and we would have cake to eat! How can I not say – that her brain is still improving. She is so desperate to get out and about .. it is so tricky. Fortunately sleep comes.
Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories


Filemot said...

The wobbly cake reference may be more recent. I was describing the wedding cake from the wedding C&B went to on Saturday - five layers top and bottom traditional fruit and heavy, middle sponge and obviously structurally unable to support the top. Since nobody seemed to have eaten any of it, the engineering aspects were of more significance.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Barbara .. oh well .. the wobbly one we were talking about - was a year ago: and therefore Mum was right! All well here .. no weak engineering problems fortunately.

Thanks for visiting -
Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

Marketing Unscrambled, Home edition said...

Hello Hilary,

It is common in our area to get some really big fires. If we have a really wet spring, we know come July and August the fire danger is very High.
July 4th and fire works do not always mix to well.
California has been hit really hard in the past few years.

Thank you for the nice post, as always very good information in your posts. All the interesting things that you found about fire and water.

It is also good to hear about your mother and uncle. Take care of yourself as your are taking care of them.

Have a great day.

Dan and Deanna "Marketing Unscrambled"

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Dan and Deanna .. yes you certainly do get bad fires out in the States. I was just so interested in the different types of fires and the parts about water.

Blogger wouldn't allow me to set the post out in the way I wanted .. I tried five or six types to put in decent paragraphs, but it left out the paragraph breaks - very frustrating!

Thanks for your comments and the interest you take in us this side of the pond!

All the best - Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

Liara Covert said...

Icebergs remind people lots of treasures lie beneath the surface. Moving out of mind and reconnecting with soul enables one to appreciate perspectives beyond logical or rational thought. Love the analogy humans are like water.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Liara .. thanks for being here .. that's an interesting thought about treasures beneath - certainly most of the berg is below.

All the best - Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

Wilma Ham said...

Your story shows me to be careful with judgment of any kind and how things need to be kept in context.
Bush fires are sometimes good to regenerate new growth, however because we placed our houses there they can become bad.
It is interesting to put things in perspective by articles like these.
I am pleased your unlce transferred safely and once again best wishes with all your care taking. Love Wilma

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Wilma .. thanks for your comment - I agree we do put things into perspective too often without thinking - we don't realised we've only been around a short while and often relate only to our lifetime, forgetting the generations past, or before humans came along.

Thank you for finding the ideas thought provoking.

It is good to have my uncle nearer - and he needs me around, if no other visitors are there. My Mum understands that I need to spend time with him. She is brilliant that she's happy in her own world, but always pleased to see me, however equally generous in losing me along the corridor. Thank goodness for their strength.

Really appreciate your wishes and love -
Love to you too - Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

Marketing Unscrambled, Home edition said...

Hello Hilary,

Blogger can be very frustrating to work with sometimes. It will not let you do somethings. The post was very interesting even if blogger did not help much.

Have a good day.

Dan and Deanna "Marketing Unscrambled"

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Dan and Deanna .. yes it can can't it!! Glad you enjoyed the post - I read the whole of Dr Pyne's article on Fire to my mother and she enjoyed it!

Sadly things are not too good with my uncle, so lots going on at the moment.

Just glad you enjoyed it .. thank you ..

It's sunny .. and that's the main thing at times like this.

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

Unknown said...

Hi Hilary,

Interesting post. My wife and I were thinking about "Chain Reaction", or "Ripple Effect" of what happened to us on ending up buying our home.

Water and Fire has 180 degree oposite attributes of loving God and threatening Evil. There must be reasons for them to be like it.

It gave us some theme to think about.

Thank you for your post.
Shaw Funami
Fill the Missing Link

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Shaw .. good to see you back! I was so interested to read the full article about Fire and how it needed water to be fire, because without water nothing will grow, and flora and fauna will, over time, adapt to their conditions.

My mother was really interested in the whole article, even though it's quite long. Some times she can cope with a lot of information.

You both have had a lot to deal with .. and I'll be coming over to follow your chain reaction through - just other things I need to do first.

Glad you enjoyed it .. all the best
Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

Marketing Unscrambled, Home edition said...

Hello Hilary,

Just wanted to check in. You must be very busy. Hope things are going as well as can be expected. We will hear from you when you can. Take care of your dear ones and yourself. Hugs to all.

Dan and Deanna "Marketing Unscrambled"

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Dan and Deanna .. thanks for seeing how we're going .. it's not been an easy week - but the next post is imminent.

Many thanks for your kind thoughts - I appreciate the care concern in your enquiry.

Today is my mother's 89th .. so we're celebrating that as best we can - all the best - Hilary