She didnt believe it. She had thought it was another swimmer that bumped her, and when she saw the sleek gray tail in front of her, she told herself it was the back of an outrigger canoe. Later, on the boat she swam to that let down a rope ladder for her to climb aboard, she felt terror, but it was mixed with the excitement of having been so close to something so magnificent.
I tell her I accepted a long time ago that she might die swimming solo where others dare not. I used similar rational to accept her attempt to deploy in Iraq as a social worker. My mother in a war zone, sixty-nine, actively shrinking, all muscle and extra skin from the five kids she bore. If you love something let it go.
“I didnt want to die out in the ocean eaten by a shark. I never thought I would see one. It was random.” She spits back.
When I pull a core of sediment from a lake I find a time series of forest turning to prairie and back again. There is no design to how a seed or leaf or pollen grain falls and where it lands. Yet a collection of random falls over time tells a story. Random moments organized by probability, the story of our galaxy, planet, the evolution of species.
Blame and gratitude switch from randomness to probability to god and back. My mom says that in her dreams she had always frozen, so in real life when she got away from the shark it made her feel more confident and also more willing to pretend there is a god.
Medium: Water, water color, sharpie, random number generator.
The Aiuaba Ecological Station preserves a desert forest in Brazil’s Caatinga biome. Though it lies in the planet’s tropical zone, Caatinga means xeric shrubland: thick-stemmed, thorny, waiting all year for rain.
Aiuaba hasn’t been managed since 2012, and since then, people have killed many animals and taken native trees from the preserve. This is according to the Wikipedia article, the first that popped up when I clicked “random article.” It includes the odd phrase that “the Aiuaba Ecological Station had been delivered to its fate.”
I like that my heart is so easy, that for the past several days, I’ve been thinking about Aiuaba, about the eared dove that lives there. I sometimes think that people and objects and animals are randomly assigned to be lynchpins at birth, that we’re each holding something to the earth, protecting it from being delivered to fate.
People once found atoms suspect because of how they were thought to move—randomly, without pattern. People though God was organized and purposeful, the opposite of random, but didn’t carry the idea through to imagine the horror of fate working toward greater and greater organization and predictability.
Look at our building blocks: cytoplasm, the solution and dissolution of blood. Even at our cores, we move to dissolve, to random distribution. I know little about God, really, but I know the universe has an easy heart.
Materials: acrylic (Golden Open). This week, I was secretly practicing brushstrokes for my rosemaling class. But there is so much chaos and precision to brushwork (bristles, angle, pressure, grip, motion) that painting has an underlayer of randomness.