By Laura Ruggles

I wander through quiet green,
stillness of humid air
like sticky sheets on a sleepless night
to my hair,
my skin,
sweat drenching me in a glowing sheen
mirroring the colours playing in the
lichen coated leaves
that brush past my eager face.
upturned eyes survey
the canopy,
trees, towering above
shielding me
from gathering armies of cloud.
the world seems waiting, breath indrawn –
only my footfall and the occasional bird
defiant in the muted surrounds
dare challenge the hush.
but, invisible,
beyond earshot,
beneath earth that delights naked toes,
borne on air,
inhaled in gulps by hungry lungs,
so recently reacquainted with its fullness,
in each dripping frond, each tendril,
a flurry of activity
electromagnetic energy
stimulating growing things, the
animated expression
of gene, protein, particle,
for the coming deluge.
I exhale.
heavy drops break through the leafy fortress.
like cathartic release of some great, pent-up grief
the sky opens, sudden explosion
drenching my ears and my clothes
with its thunderous outburst.
but no forest stillness breaks.
that waiting has only ever been my own –
mine the sole indrawn breath.
the ceaseless chatter,
the onward,
oscillatory pulse of life
continues unabated,
pausing neither for me
nor storm,
neither waiting, nor caring
for poetic sentiment
or dramatic effect.

I laugh.


This poem was written a while ago after getting caught in a storm in a Queensland rainforest. I had been recently reading a little on electroculture, the practice of stimulating growth in plants through the application of various types of electricity. There was a flurry of research activity on the topic back in the early 1900s, with contradictory findings. We know now that plants seem to use the electrostatic fields that often accompany thunderstorms as an early signal that allows them to prepare for and make the best use of the coming rain. This is perhaps not of greatest use in already damp rainforests, but in other places, because of the time it takes to synthesise new proteins, chlorophyll and so on, if plants are to make best use of the available water they need to respond and prepare in advance of its actually permeating the soil. Electrostatic activity is a good predictor of a coming storm that allows them to prepare in this manner, which is probably why in some contexts we see increased growth after mild electrostimulation of regularly watered plants.

Goldsworthy, A. (2006). ‘Effects of Electrical and Electromagnetic Fields on Plants and Related Topics’ (Ch. 11) in A.G. Volkov (Ed.) Plant Electrophysiology: Theory and Methods. Springer, Berlin.

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