Growing up my dad had a small fossil of a trilobite that he kept in a drawer of a shelf in the living room. I loved opening up that drawer and holding the round, black stone in the palm of my hand and running my fingers over the spiny little animal. The ancient bug, a part of my home, biding patiently in the darkness of that wooden cabinet. I loved thinking about a trilobite, before it belonged to anyone, roaming the earth, though I had no concept of how long ago that actually could have been. I imagined it walking over sidewalks and through parks. To me, a year still seemed like a walk around the entire planet. A thousand years was incomprehensible, let alone a million. It seemed then that I actually grew in a year. I had new teeth, I was a full grade older, I was taller according to the marks on the wall. So, while I did not know then what trilobites symbolized, or what it told us about our history, I felt an affinity toward them. I dug in the backyard in search of ancient things. My dad was an archeologist for a time, perhaps I had a genetic proclivity for all things story-telling, even then.

I think we are always searching out evidence that we are not alone. The hand imprinted in the sidewalk in front of our church; the strange stone pieces we thought were indian tools--when we realized they were simple pieces of machinery, we still kept them in a mason jar with just as much zeal; the whale bone my dad brought home before I was born, it's been on the front porch my whole life, a great grey vertebrae that is full of soft, round, immaculate holes.

Carl knew I loved trilobites, one day he brought me one home to keep as my very own. It was a jagged piece of grey slate and the bug protruded in simple form, like it was going to walk away at any moment.

He told me the story of the creature: long, long ago, the earliest and only forms of life on earth were carbon-dioxide breathing, oxygen-emitting, bacteria like creatures. The problem though, was that as the atmosphere was depleted of Co2, an opposite effect of global warming took place. The earth cooled to the point that it was frozen over all the surface, like a snowball, killing most all living things. Eventually it melted down and the few surviving life forms began the cycle again. It is thought that this cycle happened several times until one time when the conditions were right, and new life forms like the trilobite emerged during one of the warm periods. The trilobite breathed in oxygen and though it is unclear exactly how long or exactly how everything happened, the cycle was broken. The trilobite-like creatures created a symbiosis of oxygen and carbon dioxide which made it possible for further evolution to continue.

The trilobite stopped permanently in the piece of rock that I keep in my living room was a beginning of something millions of years before I lost my first tooth, or grew a foot taller, or had my heart broken and healed many times over.

There are so many beginnings though. Beginnings that emerge against all odds, and from small, unexpected measures. Like tonight when we hiked up Rock Canyon, and the light was golden as a wheat field in the middle of Utah, and the lake was wide and blue, and the mountains were stark cutouts, and we were the players, acting out the story of this time. Or the other morning, when we went to the hot air-balloon festival, and the whole crowd cheered and clapped when the wind stopped and balloons began to fill and reach toward the sky until we couldn't see anything but color and I felt a part of something important. Or my friend, who lost a baby at 39 weeks just a couple of weeks ago. The other friend I heard from again after so long. We are always beginning in the strangest and most beautiful turns of events. The way right now, as I sit here, I am both hoping and without a clue as to how everything will turn out.

--Carl wants me to tell you that some of these things are only hypotheses that are still not entirely proven, but are considered very possible solutions by many reputed scientists.


david. said...

as i was reading this, i was waiting for the end sentence saying 'and now carl and i begin a new phase in our marriage: parenthood'.


Rachel. said...

"I think we are always searching out evidence that we are not alone."

I loved this sentence. And many others.

darcie said...

that bottles my mind-the freezing and thawing thing.

michael ann said...

i just love this, so beautifully said.

and i've been meaning to say thank you for having us over in your backyard and getting us all excited for portland! it really has been as awesome as you guys said :]

lia said...

this made me cry. this was so very important for me to read right now.

especially that last disclaimer made by carl. so carl.