(If you have never read “Breakfast Smoothies” you might want to read the short introductory page. Explanations about the most blatant lies usually follow the essay.)
“Symbiotic relationships,” continued Tim.
“Tim learned a new word on the Nature Channel,” said Ben. “Does that mean that we are not watching the History Channel anymore?” he asked Tim.
“Make all the fun you want. It just explains a lot,” he said as I placed the breakfast smoothies on the table.
“What has Alicia favored us with this morning?” asked Erica.
The Symbiotic Smoothie, I said. Without the strawberries and blueberries, you would not be able to drink the tart, raspberry fruit flavor. That’s what symbiosis does for you. It’s actually from the Greek words meaning living together.
“Like you and Alicia,” said Ben.
I just looked at him.
“I was just explaining,” said Tim slowly and patiently, “how the Hawaiian Squid needs the bacteria, Vibrio Fischeri, in order to survive.”
Well, I said, passing around the smoothies. That explains a lot.
“I was looking for an example a little closer to home,” said Ben, looking at me. “Like you and Alicia.”
You’re comparing my relationship to a squid and bacteria? I asked.
“Like cattle egrets and the lawn crew at the golf course,” Erica jumped in. “There’s a perfect example. The lawn crew mows and stirs up the ticks and fleas and the cattle egret eats them. The lawn crew is happy; the cattle egret is happy.”
“No, like cows and the bacteria in their stomach,” said Tim patiently.
“Kind of hung up on bacteria this morning, are we?” asked Ben, looking at his smoothie suspiciously.
“What!” asked Tim.
Whenever you are pulling weeds, those weeds that have the shallow roots and are easiest to pull, the fire ands will inevitably build a small mound under the weed. When you go to pull the weed, they’ll be all over you. The weeds and fire ants are protecting each other.
“I think you’re right,” said Erica.
“Like weeds and snakes,” she continued. “The snakes keep me from pulling weeds in the yard, in return, the snakes eat the mice that hide in the weeds.”
“House plants and humans,” said Ben, beginning to feel the mood. He looked around, “you take care of all these plants,” he said to me, “and they lift your spirits and provide purified air.”
Or like dogs and humans. We have a long history of symbiosis, I said.
Not my dog, said, Ben. Erica nodded in agreement, “Not a nice animal.”
“Teen-aged girls and text messages,” she said, “there has to be some symbiosis going on there.”
“Sure,” agreed Ben. “The text messages provide teen-aged girls so teen-aged girls will buy devices on which to produce text messages.”
“Just think about what groups feed on each other,” he continued. “Like doctors and patients sometimes feed off each other.”
“Athletes and fans,” Tim added, rolling his eyes.
Ben said, “How about terrorists and the Military-industrial Complex.”
Tim looked worried.
Erica said, “You’re showing your age. I think we call it something different now days; like the Military-intelligence Complex.”
Ben continued, “The terrorists do bad things over here to generate the MIC and the MIC does bad things over there to generate terrorists.”
Tim looked more worried and leaned into the plant in the center of the table. He raised his voice a little too much and said, “He didn’t mean that.”
Note: This is all just dribble, but Michael Pollan has written a very good book on the symbiosis between plants and humans (The Botany of Desire). It is very readable. He doesn’t even use the word ‘symbiosis’.