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"ALL THAT IS WITHIN THE WORLD"
by Jessica Kuzmier
The pond stands still, as though nothing is going on within it. If I was looking for a happening day, by urban standards, this place totally bombed. Silence was such a pervasive noise that the loudest sensation it seemed to me was that of the blood in my ears, and of my heartbeat in my chest. It wasn't the thumping of terror, which is what is usually associated when one claims to be able to hear the sound of one's own internal battery. It just happened to be the most prominent thing that the audio signal could pick up. Nothing was going on, no frogs, not even birds seemed to be all that big on flying today. But that didn't mean that nothing wasn't happening.
This is the problem I sometimes run into as a human living in a world parallel to nature. In that world, I can pretend that somehow I have overcome that world of nature, and have the illusion that it doesn't even exist. I don't think I am all that alone in that particular thought pattern. I've seen religions whose main aim is to overcome the natural state. Caucasians came to the United States when it was a loose conglomeration of native tribes and were shocked at how little the original settlers and well, settled it. As if pretending that overcoming nature was the sole aim of getting into heaven. Fell a tree and build a church, get more brownie points than cultivating the berries on it. As a person grown in Western tradition, I am a product of this cult of cultivation.
It's starting to dawn on people that maybe all of this chopping and building may not be so good for the environment, and maybe not for mankind themselves. They are waking up from the delusion that seemed so opaque in its clarity, and that there is nothing going on in that natural world. Maybe that pond that looks so empty is really playing tricks on us. Or in this case, me. As a person who spends a lot of time looking at other people, who are usually at least a foot in length, it is easy to forget that there are lives that are increments smaller than a pore of my skin. Even easier to forget that my life is dependent on those life forms that seem so small as to be insignificant. What is it about the human mind that assumes that size imports relevance to a subject?
Looking to the larger world, the one with the skies and the heavens above, it also seems to be so grand to seem like it is too big to grasp. I've often heard people say they go up to the foot of a mountain, say, Mount Rainier, or a huge tree like General Sherman, and then feel so small. I think what they mean is that once they encounter a life form that looms so much larger than they, whatever it is that they think is important seems to somehow shrink down to a microscopic size that finds itself easily squashed underfoot. This seems to appear like the nature version of someone going through a near death experience like a car accident, or a natural disaster like a hurricane, and then suddenly realize what is important in that person's life.
I don't quite relate to the whole feeling small next to a tree phenomenon. There is a picture that exists of me standing in the crux of a redwood tree. Someone asked me, when she saw it, if I felt small. I can't say that I did. I, of course, didn't feel terribly large either. The correct thing is to say is that I felt the right size. The sense of scale was measured against all of reality, and I was right there in the midst of where exactly where I was supposed to be. Sometimes, in my human world where I need to promote myself or die, the scope of my effect seems to be larger than it is. In a paradox, it is also a way of forgetting my place and how intricate I am. To put it this way, I am not the web. I am not outside of the web, indifferent to it. But I am part of the web, and everything I do adds another strand to web that, so far as I know, stretches into the outer reaches of the universe, perhaps even infinity. And it is this way for all the life forms that I encounter, even the ones that seem too small or silent to count.
The whole idea of biodiversity sometimes really gets me, because there is so much in this human world that supposedly needs to be attended to. Like bills, politics, watch the debate, call your friends and all of the other things that seem to be outside of what the world of the little is. All of that other stuff, the birds and the bees and the dafodills or whatever, they are nice background, but they really don't have much to do with me and my life. They're good to watch when I get a moment, and then can hang out and write bad poetry in my head that no one would ever want to publish. Then, time to get on with my real life, like go make some soup for dinner. It's like watching a TV channel. Turn on one channel, and there's the nature show. Get sick of it? Just turn around and shut off the TV. Now it doesn't exist. Where I step, what I do, it doesn't matter because outside of my own experience of it, nature and its infinite variety just don't exist.
This reminds me of the time when I was in high school, and there was on the beach nearby me a place that had a piping plover nesting ground. You couldn't step on that area, for this would endanger the process of its breeding cycle. For the life of me, and not understanding the whole web of life thing, I would look at this and just think that this was one of those hippie things that my parents would complain about. It felt like an imposition to my freedom, to roam the beach the way I wanted. After all, why was it here that the plovers decided to hang out and have their eggs, when they had the whole beach? And what about all of the other life forms here? Like no other species decided to nest around this area. It just seemed like a strange overkill for one kind of bird.
In a roundabout way, I was thinking about the web of life and interconnectedness that I would later come to know in my life. What was happening was that I was reading that protecting one species at what seemed to be the expense of others seemed to in a way be negating the rest of the world. Sure, save the piping plover. But what about all of the fish, plankton, and plant life that srurrounded our area? I may not want to kill anything, such as an animal, but unless I was a fruitarian, I was killing life forms every day just to feed myself. And what about other kinds of extermination? We had some fleas on our dog the other week. I killed them off. Even if I were a fruitarian (of which I am not), I would be taking life by perhaps inadvertently eating some hapless bacterium on my meal. Not to mention all of the microorganisms and insects which I inadvertently step on and kill as I just even get up in the middle of the night to drink a cup of water. And that yogurt: the bacteria who like me go and kill the bacteria that don't. I have employed my own arsenal and militia just by eating a container of Stonyfield's French Vanilla.
This is the kind of thing when I think about biodiversity. It's enough, sometimes, for me to say the heck with it. After all most humans don't seem to care, and of course just about every species I know eats someone else just to survive. It makes me want to just go and eat, drink and be merry, the whole idea of biodiversity be something that occasionally read about until I go onto the next subject. Sort of like, the old change the channel scenario. It don't exist if I don't think it does.
This whole thing amounts to the whole, I think, therefore I am nonsense. Like the tree doesn't make a sound when it falls in the forest if I am not there to hear it. Or at least, if one of my fellow humans are there to tell me. He could be lying to me, but at least he has the vocabulary and communication skills to convey to me this information. I certainly don't get the same breaking news report from and ant or some weird fungi I never heard of.
But this whole thing with nature, the big picture, this is the whole sort of thing is something that can seem awfully distant in the human world with its let's get it done yesterday mentality. I have the opportunity, at this moment, to slow down and watch the process of a spider web in the making, to watch the sun go down on foliage that will soon evolve and dissolve to minerals that will feed the earth, but for a moment will shoot a star into the heaven and raise a glass to the glory of its maturity. But my mind is wrapped up on electoral votes, and what will happen with Florida or Ohio or whatever when I am here when I am in central New York.
There was a spider in his web, and he was waiting and watching. OF course, he was in the real basic ways of life. I convince myself that what I am doing is beyond the necessities, so it seems as though it is divorced from that basic process, so as to mean that somehow in this civilization that I live in I am part of the mastery that has taken place over these basic processes. Removal, six degrees of separations has made the decree final: I am separate, and my world has nothing to do with the larvae of the earth unless I want it to.
This kind of process, watching the sun go down on the show and theater that has been my day, is something that I forget to think about because it seems so unreal. Like the hippies that my family denigrated, it feels like I am trying to find some reason to copout from the world that I find myself partaking in, looking for a slacker way to drop out of it and not get done all the civilized things that the hallmark of a good citizen does to get done. A spoiled Westerner, an American no less, who is so arrogant so as to think that she can disparage the great civilization that educated her and raised her and call it excess when in reality it is her grandiosity that is truly in excess. The great ego that is she cannot live without the structure that has been constructed, even if she imagines it. Nor could I even imagine it.
Fog obliterates clarity of vision, blotting out the painting of colors that are becoming peak view. Long vision, I have read, blots out the detail in front of me. If I focus on the smallest of small, a whole world passes before me in a whirlwind where I have forgotten everything but what I think I see. Color makes life more real to me because then I choose to notice it then. The flash catches me, makes me blink as I would if a photographic one went off in my face. So I watch it, imperfect I am, watching as the green that I had ignored so long has now become a flaming orange. May as well go out in a blaze of foliage.
I am at the place where I go to walk a lot. It is a place in the woods where I visit so often that it becomes easy not to see what is going on with myself. Like the walk is about itself, listening to my other half as he talks about his concerns for the day, and I am allowing my mind to be drifting than what I enjoyed in front of me. It's easy to miss what is in front of me, and even easier for me to get down on myself for not staying in the moment, for being focused. It's like not paying attention to a friend when he is talking and then finding out later on that it was the last time you could have spoken to them because they died.
I look at the last words, and they seem macabre and morbid. Which is what I always seem to think when I regard the end of a cycle, or the end of life. Sometimes, I have heard, that this is a kind of denial of what life really is. Namely, that in order to appreciate life, I need to acknowledge it ends. Sort of like the old saying, there is a time and a season for all things. But I find that when I speak of these things, it is as though a silence comes over the room, speaking the taboo which no one wants to know. The autumn of life is in full bloom and also does not seem to know its end, although with the leaves falling like petals of youth falling into the wrinkle of winter's long slumber.
This, though poignant, is not really all that sad. Whether I see the leaves in its bloom and acknowledge everything on not, it is still all life that changes into its own pattern. Though some of diversity goes away, soon is something else takes its place. The winter will have its own variety and mix regardless of whatever it is that I think that is going on with reality. I look deep inside, I receive one vision. I gloss over the surface, I see another. All a part of life, and the definintion of what it is in all ways.
Eventually, the leaves go, move onto its new stage of decomposition. For something to be created, something needs to be destroyed. In death, life begins again. So many processes take place that it is nearly impossible to really track them in any logical sense of what the human brain can comprehend. The thought of a higher power comes to mind. But even those who separate the sacred from the profane might say that it is a wonder, all the things that go on. Scientists with their myriad ways of observation see worlds within worlds when all seems quiet. Transformation from one state to another, even when it decomposes, is another form of life. A season of change that occurs in increments invisible and massive, the leaves that have dressed the trees surrounding the ponds go to their final grave to feed all the dormancy that lies behind my feet. Whatever I think is not going on is taking place full throttle underneath me. Silence and dormancy are things I judge by human standards, but much goes on within that state, reminding me that I have much to learn. Another process of transformation to take place outside of me, and within my mind.
Chivian, Eric: Sustaining Life
Darwin, Charles: The Origin of the Species
Stearns, Beverly Peterson: Watching, From the Edge of Extinction
Stewart, Paul D.: Galapagos
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