IMYS #31 - Sagan Called It Stardust

Until next year...

IMYS will be on holiday break until after the New Year. Get some rest.

Yesterday, my dear friend, Tate, sent me a link to an article about Native American tribes buying back their sacred lands. In that piece, there was this quote from Amy Walker about some ancestral land that she was gardening and shepherding, “I thought about the ions of ancestors, of their bones that are still deep in the ground, and how does that relate to me? I have a responsibility to raise the corn.”

It’s a common thought to consider that one’s ancestors might have lived in a place for a long time but Walker’s use of the word “ions” really caught my eye. It’s a science-y word that actually mirrors the reality of the fact that we are made up of the elements and molecules of all that’s come before us.

I’m especially struck that this concept applies not just to the humans we know and love but even those we despise. There is no difference between us when we are broken down into our constituent parts. The neighbor with a different yard sign. The coworker taking all the credit for your work. In 200 years, you’ll all be mixed up in a miasma of multitudes. Then, add in all the animals and bugs and plants and it’s just one giant biomass of which we represent a small and overly impactful part.

That’s the global, universal view but I’m more interested in the local way this plays out. How does this natural process of creation and destruction change who we are and how we respond to the places we inhabit? This molecular connection to place is something that has shown up in my writing often.

To that end, as a way to close the year out (and to encourage me to finish it) I wanted to share a short excerpt of the novel I’ve been working on. It touches on some of these ideas of how we might be physically connected at an atomic level.

The context is a teenager dealing with the embarrassment of his changing body and burgeoning awareness of the world and those who inhabit it.

I hoped I’d be flung into the red clay mud. I’d sink down into it. Have the red paste fill my nose, my ears, and my mouth until I was more clay than human. Keep sinking as I dissolved into smaller and smaller pieces until I worked through some layer of limestone and dripped down a stalactite into one of those underground aquifers. By now, I’d be long forgotten. My hard-on just a funny story told by an old man about his disgusting friend.

I’d be shot back toward the surface and be reborn into the world as clean water. The new me, the clean water me would be sucked into the roots of a Green Ash. I’d work my way up to the branches carrying my burden of minerals and nutrients. I’d make a hundred choices of left or right as I navigated the branching into smaller and smaller avenues until I arrived at a leaf just in time. Leaving behind my burden, I’d move toward the light and bead on the outside of the leaf as a perfect, clean drop of water.

I’d sit there getting larger and larger until I was too large to hold on anymore. I’d fall then toward the pool of water below. I’d be lucky that the Green Ash chose the edge of this spring. I’d be lucky that it grows tall and straight here because I’d have plenty of time to take in the scene below as I fell. Two boys swimming, splashing, and laughing.

My fall would be stopped as I landed on the head of the one boy. The thin one with the easy smile and the blue eyes. There’d be other water there in his hair but I’d stay me. I’d be unique. As he leaned back into a deep belly laugh, inertia would pull me down his forehead limning his eye and skirting past his nose finding the corner of his mouth.

He’d lick his lips and I’d be inside him. I would then take another journey through a maze of branches and dead ends until I found myself in his head or in his heart or in his blood. Each of those would have a part of me. I might cease to exist at that moment. I would have become that which I was meant to be.

As an experiment, I recorded an audio version of the above. Maybe you’d rather listen?

Happy Holidays!