March 19th, 2009

abstract butterfly


Microscopic Ridges of a Seashell

I like the way that life resembles a seashell. Put a lot of life in a basket, and it looks like everyone else's life. But examine the unexamined shard of shell--and who knows what mysteries arise. Pick up a book on orchids, and you find that orchids bloom in all kinds of different places all over the world. Spend ten minutes in an orchid greenhouse, and become convinced that orchids grow only in that one place in the universe. They're just too special to be so widespread.

On Sanibel Island, in Florida, the little ibis birds run in the surf among a sand strewm with shell. Each shell has its roots in the organic--each is a faint if lovely reminder of by-gone life. Put a chip from such a shell under a microscope, and there are whorls within whorls.

I'm enchanted by things that exist in unknown but lovely tens of thousands, like species of philodendron or English folksongs or types of quilts or sermons by country parsons. I think I like to read science fiction because it lives in that same space of possibility and permutation. There's nothing "meta" about stars and science. It just comes at you, no matter how many convenient myths you wish to throw at it. It's comfortable, like a warm kiss or the sight of euglena whipping its green way in a microscope slide.

I like the way that life is like a seashell--and the waves float in, and there is so much of interest, lost in the wonderful sargasso doldrum of life lived quietly.