by Robin van Tine

Nearly motionless, comfortably sprawled mid-stream on a boulder deep in the Appalachian mountain wilderness, my self-awareness jolts back to the forefront of my being. All about me dance the rich, mingled wilderness spirits, delighting my senses as they invite me to join the dance. I've been here on this rock in the cool autumn mist for a purposefully indeterminate period of time - my watch carefully left behind in my car at the trail head days ago. Early this morning, I had been seduced into wakefulness at first light by the joyous singing of birds. For the past several nights, I've slept gently, out in the open, caressed by starlight and wrapped in the comforting forest night sounds, near the mountain stream which now flows all around me on my granite perch. With wonder, I begin to realize that I am now experiencing myself in a startlingly beautiful new way. I am no longer a discrete entity sitting on a rock - I have become flow!

A cool current of air arouses my flesh and fondles the leaves of the forest trees which respond with rustling song. The streaming water, encompassing me on my rock, ripples with sensuous anticipation as the breeze also strokes it tenderly. I feel the cold tug of the turbulent flow swirling around the fingers of my hand lolling in the draft. I watch as the passionate flow excitedly caresses the sreambed's pebbles, cobblestones and boulders, inducing them to joyfully abandon tiny mineral bits of themselves to the rollicking torrent which carries them off to sea, making it salty. Some of these rocky salts flow into and become part of the oceanic flora and fauna which are eventually deposited on the sea-floor, to become rock again in a millennium. The hardness of the boulder presses into the hardness of my bones - bones made of rock.

How long have I been here on my stone amidst the streaming? I feel one with the flows enveloping me. I continue sitting. The cold, crisp wetness of the damp, chill air rushes into my nose and throat with each in-breath. It whirls down my windpipe, and through my lungs, reaching my depths. It seems part of me. I seem part of it. It gusts into my bloodstream, suffusing me with the blended breaths of the forest trees surrounding me, and with the joint exhalations of all the living, and non-living beings of Earth. I am one with all that is.

I feel the waters of my blood, now enriched with the life-giving oxygen of the green beings, flow into each of my cells which eagerly receive this energizing breath connecting them to the trees of the Amazon rain forest, the grasses of the Serengeti plains, the mosses of the Siberian tundra and the plankton of the rich waters off Antarctica. Warm winds joyfully pour out of my cells in response and join the salty current of blood rushing back into my lungs. I exhale and feel the warm moistness of each out-breath as it passes between my lips and joins the wind flowing sensuously all around my body on its way northeastward over the continent. My breath swirls with it - parts of me mingling and becoming one with it - as it flows out over and into the oceans and lands of Earth in a spiral dance blending the gaseous out-breaths of all the planet.

I am one with the wind. I become part of a grateful Sonoran desert cactus and a magnificent California Redwood tree. I flow into and become one with an oyster in the Chesapeake Bay as my breath becomes part of its shell. My carbon exhalations form part of the hard stony skeleton of a delicate coral on the Great Barrier Reef. I am the reef. I become part of the exquisite and delicate limestone teste of a tiny, planktonic creature in the Indian Ocean which will be deposited on the sea-floor to become rock when it dies. I am the plankton - I am the rock.

As I sit here on my rock contemplating my breath, I sense the churning of the magma, not so far beneath me, below Earth's thin rocky crust upon which I'm perched. This vast molten subterranean river flowing in great circles, causes the drifting continents which ride upon it to collide and ruck up great mountain chains formed of buckled rocky seafloor edges. Seafloor made up of billions of limestone shells from the plankton that my breath builds. Streams, wind and rain erode these breath built mountains back into boulders and stones and minerals which flow, once again, into the sea and back into all living beings - including me.

As the magma continues flowing, it melts through the sea-floor floating on top of it, oozing immense valleys of newly reborn crust which form majestic submarine mountain ranges as they spread, sometimes pushing the continents before them, and sometimes diving beneath the continents into a fiery cauldron that re-melts the crust and its planktonic sedimentary rock made up of my breath. I feel the hard rocky mineral bones of my hand - mountain bones, plankton bones, breathy bones, wind bones, magma bones. I have become the consciousness of flow!

I feel that I exist not as a body separate from the other things around me. I seem to be - to have become - a flowing stream of energy, a swirl of material emanating from all else and returning into all else in an infinitely vast and complex dance. I drink the cool wetness of the flowing stream which pours into me like a waterfall - cascading into my salty, oceanic bloodstream whose heart-pulsed waves bath the living molecular membranes of my cellular shores.

As each wave washes over them, their hydrophilic phospholipids eagerly embrace the watery stream molecules, enticing them to enter into the insides of my cells - to join my biochemical dance of life - becoming part of me! Other water molecules trickle out of my cells, into my lymph swamps and marshes, and slowly flow back into my coursing bloodstream. Waters pour out of my body. Some joins the winds as evaporated perspiration to merge with the swirling, flowing clouds and mists. Some will leave me as urine and flow back into streams and into the soil carrying with it rocky minerals from my blood and bones and organs. My rocky waters flow into and become one with the myriad soil creatures and the roots of plants and trees. I flow into them!

Hungrily, I chew some hazelnuts and dried apricots from my trail mix and savor their textures. A current of water molecules flow through my mouth from my salivary glands coaxing tiny molecular bits of the nuts and fruit to travel along with them. Some touch my taste buds and nasal passages and become chemically bonded to molecular receptors on my cells' surfaces, causing flows of electrical energy to travel to my brain where I perceive the hazelnut and apricot connections as acrid and sweet flavors and complex aromas.

I swallow, feeling the nuts and fruit move deeper and deeper into me with each peristaltic wave of muscular contraction. In my gut, the pieces of nuts and fruit, now broken down into soluble sugars and amino acids and fatty acids flow into my bloodstream and are carried by it into all of my cells where some will be taken into me to become my own molecular structure - me. Deep inside my cells, the sweet apricot sugars, merge in joyous ecstasy with the vibrant beech tree oxygen, carried to me as wind from the forest leaves. Their fiery union releases stored sunlight energy in a burst that powers my dance of life. I'm warmed by the heat of this vigorous biochemical jig.

I give my heat to the Universe, it flows and radiates from me. I am connected to the trees and bushes that bore these fruits and nuts. and to the life-giving wind. They have become me and I have become them. I, in turn, give back to them, in my out-breath, gaseous carbon, freed in this same hot, energetic dance which gives me every instant of life. My carbon, given by me to the winds, is taken in by the trees and used to form the very molecular backbones of their bodies. I have become an ever changing pattern of swirls interconnecting with the flowing all - an instantaneous awareness of a portion of the universal spirals of the mysterious all.

I see a squirrel on the bank of the stream, watching me eat my trail mix as he eats nuts from the ancient hickory tree near me, whose tortuous roots enwrap a boulder at the edge of the creek and absorb its water and minerals. Our gazes lock. I stare deeply into his dark eyes. Colored light quanta flowing ninety three million miles from fusing solar atomic nuclei reverberate between us, entering each other's retinal cells - stimulating electrically charged rocky minerals to flow along our nervous pathways, altering our perceptions of the universe, and intimately connecting us to each other and to the nuclei of the hydrogen atoms passionately fusing in our star.

We are conjoined in a radiant galactic dance which alters us and connects us to each other and to the infinite Great Mystery. The squirrel, moving jerkily, rapidly digs a hole in the dark soil, buries a nut, takes a few steps and leaves some droppings - scats, containing undigested bits of Hickory nut which will flow into, become part of, and power, the soil bacteria. From them will flow transformed mineral compounds that will fertilize the Hickory tree. We are all connected in a single flow.

As I watch, a red-tailed hawk swoops and plummets from high in the sky and grabs the terrified squirrel in his sharp, curving talons and carries him up to the highest branches of the Hickory tree whose nuts the squirrel was eating. The squirrel is devoured before my eyes, his substance becoming the hawk, his life energy becoming the hawk's life energy. With a shrill whistling call, the hawk dives into the flowing wind, letting some guano drop down to the base of the tree and into the stream where its milky-white mineral particles mingle with the water molecules and flow with them until becoming parts of plants and animals and perhaps me, once again.

I stretch and savor the warmth created in my flesh as the midday sunlight rays enter and interact with me. I feel one with these deep invisible forces - the released energy pent-up inside starry primordial hydrogen nuclei since the dawn of time. I am connected to infinity.

As I sit comfortably sprawled mid-stream on my boulder deep in the Appalachian mountain wilderness, I know that I have received a precious gift, the knowledge that I am a small eddy current connected to and not separate from the ubiquitous universal spirals of energy and matter that are all things. I have joined the dance!

Originally presented at the Association for the Study of Literature and the Environment, Second Biennial Conference, University of Montana, July 17-19, 1997.

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