I’ve stopped counting the number of times I return to this space. This blog. This need. I’d say it’s been a hell of a year, but that’s old news.
I could make a list of things I’ve lost: Dogs. Husband. Ohio. Stability. Certainty. Windows I can open. Books.
I could make a list of things I’ve kept, things I’ve found: Friends. Rocks. Sun. Good work. Alabama. Dogs. Windows that are painted shut. Books.
A list of things I’ll never find: A swimsuit that fits and wasn’t made for swimming laps. Certainty. Sanity. Jeans I can breathe in.
I am reading Lab Girl, by Hope Jahren. She is a scientist and a writer, one of my favorite combinations. As is my way, what I read puts my life in a context I can’t find on my own. [She is writing about a tree she grew up with, that she loves, that has been cut down.]
Time has also changed me, my perception of my tree and my perception of my tree’s perception of itself. Science has taught me that everything is more complicated than we first assume, and that being able to derive happiness from discovery is a recipe for a beautiful life. It has also convinced me that carefully writing everything down is the only real defense we have against forgetting something important that once was and is no more, including the spruce tree that should have outlived me but did not.
Lab Girl: A Story of Trees, Science and Love, p. 36
My tree is my marriage. That’s the year it’s been. But trees make more seeds than can grow, each one “impossible and inevitable,” as Jahren writes. That’s a fine description of life. That “something so hard can be so easy if you just have a little help” is where I am now. That “in the right place, under the right conditions, you can finally stretch out into what you’re supposed to be.”
When the embryo within a seed starts to grow, it basically just stretches out of its doubled-over waiting posture, elongating into official ownership of the form that it assumed years ago. The hard coat that surrounds a peach pit, a sesame or mustard seed, or a walnut’s shell mostly exists to prevent this expansion. In the laboratory, we simply scratch the hard coat and add a little water and it’s enough to make almost any seed grow. I must have cracked thousands of seeds over the years, and yet the next day’s green never fails to amaze me. Something so hard can be so easy if you just have a little help. In the right place, under the right conditions, you can finally stretch out into what you’re supposed to be.
After scientists broke open the coat of a lotus seed (Nelumbo nucifera) and coddled the embryo into growth, they kept the empty husk. When they radiocarbon-dated this discarded outer shell, they discovered that their seedling had been waiting for them within a peat bog in China for not less than two thousand years. This tiny seed had stubbornly kept up the hope of its own future while entire human civilizations rose and fell. And then one day this little plant’s yearning finally burst forth within a laboratory. I wonder where it is right now.
Each beginning is the end of a waiting. We are each given exactly one chance to be. Each of us is both impossible and inevitable. Every replete tree was first a seed that waited.
Lab Girl, pp. 38-39