Wednesday, June 04, 2014

It's a Rich Life

One mild January afternoon, I sat on a rock in the lawns at school. The stream flowing by, clean for this time of the year, gurgled in with childish whir. Sunshine stroking my face warmly, felt like an ethereal comforter. The brown lawn patched with gold, a little like my beard, sat under a blue grey sky, filled with sleek and tall clouds glided to the East like the office crowd rushing home.

The stream reflected sweet sunshine. Its ripples and waves danced like harmonics on gold membranes. I thought it would be nice to have a bottle of this sunshine to carry around like a lamp, instead of the cellphone flashlight. It would be equally nice to have a horse, like any other in every respect, but made of water. It could gallop across the lawn misting passersby like the barber readying you for a haircut. That's always been my favorite part of the haircut. The horse would never need a haircut of course because the silvery mane and tail of water would be quite dazzling in the sun. Sunshine internally reflect at so many points inside the horse's water muscles and water bones that it would get lost in there. I'd show off a bottle of sunshine like that one. You could even keep a pet goldfish in this horse! Maybe Koi would just swim up its neck as the horse went to the stream. The fish would breathe the same air as the water horse.  Algae would do really well in the mane and tail giving it an emerald tinge, because the water hair would trap sunlight so well. The huge surface to volume ratio of water hair would lead to copious gas exchange. Of course in summer the water horse would get all slimy around the neck and backside because the algae would do too well trapping all that sunshine. When this water horse would die, it would die in a great splash of wet light.

But for now, no such water horse exists and I'm not on drugs. I know that thought crossed your mind. To my left, a flock of blackbirds roll over itself like amoeba or macrophage. The birds in the rear of the flock fly over to perch right in front of the vanguard over and over. One could easily imagine the legs of these birds like integrins attached to surface of vasculature and birds' flight to the front of the flock like cytoskeletal proteins rearranging themselves to push the flock/cell ahead.

A tennis ball floated and bobbed down the stream. It could have been a soliton if it was just a ball of water. In ninth standard when we were studying waves in physics I asked my teacher about a soliton. She didn't know of it. A then neighbor who is a professor of physics had mentioned them. A standing wave in water would be a loose description. It's a remarkable phenomenon, partly because the rest of us don't know of or understand them. They say a Scottish engineer saw a soliton and chased it for a mile on his horse way before the mathematics behind it was worked out. That tennis ball could have been the soliton and I could have been John Scott Russell on my water horse chasing it for a mile. It's a fun thought.

And a twelve year old broke my reverie stumbling on the other bank. I'm not certain why I think he was twelve. He hopped across the stream looking in the water like it were a crater on the moon. He threw in a stone and poised himself as if something scary were about to emerge. I tried to look through his eyes. He probably saw the bed raked up and tadpoles, rushing away from and then towards the splash. Scum probably waved around before it stopped moving. He kept looking at it and then moved on. He reached a tree and hung by the branch for a while. He got on his bike and then rode away.

Stepping back in time, I did the same things that boy did. Throwing big rocks into the lake in HCU and standby to watch the splash. I really disliked the floating slimy algae and the friends I was with would pick gobs of it from the lake and put them into my shoes. I even grabbed tadpoles out of the lake and took them home. I was so surprised when one day there was no tadpole in the jar. I used to climb up the green trunked kapok tree all summer afternoon.  That so satisfied the monkey portion of my genome :). It still does. I'd ride my bike proudly wherever I went and it was so much fun!

Stepping forward, I ask myself if all this time spent learning and working in biology labs has given me more than credentials. I think it has. All my learning amalgamated with imagination led to a very pleasurable afternoon rich with images and stories. Fun today, compared to fifteen years ago, honestly feels like a magnificent mural compared to scribbling on the wall. It's a rich life! :)