Ode to the Fish Nights when I can’t sleep, I listen to the sea lions barking from the rocks off the lighthouse. I look out the black window into the black night and think about fish stirring the oceans. Muscular tuna, their lunge and thrash churning the water, whipping up a squall, storm of hunger. Herring cruising, river of silver in the sea, wide as a lit city. And all the small breaths: pulse of frilled jellyfish, thrust of squid, frenzy of krill, transparent skin glowing green with the glass shells of diatoms. Billions swarming up the water column each night, gliding down at dawn. They’re the greased motor that powers the world. Shipping heat to the arctic, hauling cold to the tropics, currents unspooling around the globe. My room is so still, the bureau lifeless, and on it, inert, the paraphernalia of humans: keys, coins, shells that once rocked in the tides— opalescent abalone, pearl earrings. Only the clock’s sea-green numerals register small changes. And shadows the moon casts—fan of maple branches— tick across the room. But beyond the cliffs a blue whale sounds and surfaces, cosmic ladle scooping the icy depths. An artery so wide, I could swim through into its thousand-pound heart. Ellen Bass
In Mexico the poor say, when there’s lightning, the rich think that God is taking their picture.
It is our biological destiny to exist — and then not. Each of us eventually returns their stardust to the universe, to be constellated into some other ephemeral emissary of spacetime. Eventually, our entire species will go the way of the dinosaurs and the dodo and the Romantics; eventually, our home star will live out its final moments in a wild spin before collapsing into a white dwarf, taking with it everything we have ever known — Beethoven’s Ode to Joy and the guillotine and the perfect Fibonacci sequence of the pine cone.
Meanwhile, in this blink of existence bookended by nothingness, we busy ourselves with survival and with searching for beauty, for truth, for assurance between the bookends. The feeling of that search is what we call meaning; the people who light our torches to help us see better, who transmit our discoveries from one consciousness to another, are what we call artists. Artists are also the ones who help reconcile us to the fragility that comes with our creaturely nature and strews our search with so much suffering. Suffering — biological and psychological, in private and en masse — has always accompanied our species, as it has every species. But we alone have coped by transmuting our suffering into beauty, by making symphonies and paintings and poems out of our fragility — beauty that does not justify the suffering, but does make it more bearable, does help the sufferers next to us and after us, in space and in time, suffer less, in ways the originating consciousness can never quantify in the receiving, never estimate their reach across the sweep of centuries and sufferings.
“During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.”
“There are four kinds of people in the world, Ms. Harper. Those who build walls. Those who protect walls. Those who breach walls. And those who tear down walls. Much of life is discovering who you are. When you find out, you also realize there are places you can no longer go, things you can no longer do, words you can no longer say.”
P.S. Baber, Cassie Draws the Universe