Saturday, January 9, 2016

taking in the woods, the woods taking in me

It's a funny thing; the older I get, the more porous life seems to be.

When I was a kid, I used to think of myself as a solid entity, a single individual (the famous American individualism!), hermetically sealed off, really, from the world. I was an individual living and moving in the world, yes - but inside my skin, that was ME, and outside my skin, that was NOT ME. I remember experiencing something of a shock the first time I really conceived of the fact that I was permeable. And not just through my mouth or nose, my ears or eyes ... but my skin. That I excrete through my skin the foods I eat, that my skin breathes in and absorbs the environment around me. 

Yeah, I think it was realizing the porous nature of skin that really started to shake my sense of myself as a solid being, a singular entity: if chemicals, molecules, could pass through my skin - if things could come and go through me - then how could I be certain what constituted me

The older I get, the more everything feels ... impermanent. Just chemicals, elements, atoms constantly reconfiguring. Energy transmitted, passed, shared. Touch, go, leave something behind. Maybe it's my yoga practice; maybe this is what it means to start to conceive of one's existence as but a wave in an ocean.

It's a little unsettling. And at the same time, comforting.

In particular, lately, I've been thinking about states of matter. I touch a wall or a crystal or a piece of wood and think about the fact that its solidity is, in some ways, just an illusion of my limited sensory capacity; really, if we could excite the atoms to loosen the molecular bonds connecting them, this solid item could melt and run through my fingers - or evaporate into air, and I could inhale it into my lungs. I think about the act of swimming, about myself as a collection of more densely packed atoms moving in a body through more loosely arranged atoms.

(nettles are just starting to come up; I have half a mind to go pick these young things early, just to satisfy an early craving for the flavors of the woods. It'd take a long time to gather enough for a meal, and I'd have to range over a lot of territory, but my mind fixed on them some weeks ago and I have been contemplating them with something bordering on obsession.)

(miner's lettuce, too)

Even our experience of sound and light are determined by varying resonances of vibration; red could so easily be green; treble could so easily be bass. (I have no idea what these fat, juicy little mushrooms are, but aren't they delightfully plump and succulent-looking little fruits?)

I think, too about the conservation of energy in all this, the recycling, the recombining of elements, particles. Nothing is lost, the physicists tell us. 

I don't know to what end these thoughts are tending, but I feel like my sense of my own existence is shifted by them, in subtle ways.

I wonder what changes these changed and changing perspectives work upon me?

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