I am a linguist who loves literature and who is fascinated by science. I quantify randomness. I paint. I travel in a power wheelchair, hoping to capture the ordinary.

Saturday, July 14, 2012


An orange and pearl sky, from the blog red.
Nicola Griffith's world of Jeep in Ammonite is a world that swims in a sky of pearl and tangerine, whose air is tinged with an alien nutmeg warmth. And perhaps just as strange are our own worlds, our eyes that may or may not perceive the same wavelengths in the same way. Indeed, you could be wandering right now under my tangerine sky.

This is just the beginning. We are alien worlds.

Do we not approach each other with that same trepidation that beats in the heart of the anthropologist on a planet with three moons and electromagnetic disturbances? So we say: I do not know how to tread on your land. I do not know what to accept with grace and what may be an unfamiliar poison. My language may babble in an inscrutable stream. I may starve or suffocate without special protection.

And in loving, are we not also this same anthropologist? I want to touch this alien leaf, though strange creatures may bite me. I will adjust my gait to your gravity. I breathe in your nutmeg air, trusting my lungs to the pleasure. I count the stars in this tangerine sky, though the patterns are unfamiliar. Please trust and carry my weight on your earth. 

In all of this, a recognition of shared sentience, of the oneness of us. But the love is also in the unique and strange, in the inhalation of new airs, in the caressing of our cosmic bodies, cubbyholes of history, held in the minute microcosms of our navels

Dr. Rob Dunn, in a study on the bacteria in our navels, has found entire life stories hidden within:

The data has since led Dunn to identify the associated factors leading to such a diverse bellybutton microbiome. He tried numerous factors, such as age and gender but nothing was even remotely close. Then came another possibility that seems to Dunn as though it may be the key. He decided to get more information from the participants, including their place of birth and where they had lived as children and beyond. That's when the data almost miraculously came together revealing something that was beyond incredible.
The navel bacteria were related to where the person has lived over the course of their lifetime. The tiny anatomical vestibule was actually a museum of lifetime experiences.
© Camille Seaman, The Atlantic
Dunn wants to see more data before he is totally convinced, but the preliminary data are exciting. "Our bodies are recognizing the universe in so many amazing ways," Dunn tells me. "While the brain fumbles to understand ourselves in our own world, the body is learning to adapt and co-exist with the environment around it. What we experience stays with us like a never ending microbial diary." (more here)

We Are Nature - Multiple Exposure Portraits Vol. II, © Christoffer Relander 2012

Howard Terpning, The Storyteller. From First People.
Even our tiniest places hold so much of us. Imagine, then, what else is to be found in these creatures around us, human and otherwise. What sky monsters lie emergent in your gaze? Does your thunder rumble, swirl, or crack? 
Even in silence, and even on other worlds, we carry our histories, in our eyes and in our flesh. In the way we look to and see the heavens, and in the shape of our storm clouds. So what better way to love than to seek out the stories, or perhaps simply to gaze at someone else's navel for a little while?


  1. That's a wonderful post. Thank you. Who knew bellybuttons were such repositories of our history?

    And would you believe this is the first time I've really put two and two together regarding the colour of Ammonite's cover?

  2. Thanks for your comment, and I'm glad that you liked the post. (I didn't know that you would see it...!) I'm thrilled that it made a new connection for you, too.

    It is a truly lovely book, especially with the resonance it has for someone like me, a former anthropologist who did fieldwork in Puebla. It is odd and exciting to have Mexico emerge in an alien world.