I sit down to write out some thoughts about phosphates and coral reefs. I close my eyes and try to visualize the flow of nutrients through the reef. In my mind's eye, I sense the fingers of coral reaching out into the crystal turquoise lagoon waters.
I focus on the growth and decay of the branching corals and the flow of nutrients and minerals into and out of the living coral.
With a shimmer, the world around me flows into another layer of time and I see coral growing like crystals under the sea, winding their crystal memories into the sea.
The vision only lasts a brief moment and I am again sitting aboard Moira, pencil poised above the paper, Freddy moving around the galley fixing dinner. My little mind game - seeing coral in time-lapse with Sea moving in and out of its life system - leaves an unexpected residual concept, like the after-image of a bright flash. It is a memory of the "way" of flow as elements pass through the living beings of the reef.
The living flesh of corals is 100 percent sea water - it differs only in the arrangement of Sea's elements. A few elements are slightly more concentrated in coral tissue than in ambient sea water. But the real difference between living coral and open sea is the way the elemental atoms behave.
The atoms making up the flesh of corals don't remain in the coral very long. Most of them exchange with ambient sea water atoms quickly, in just a few days. Oxygen, nitrogen, hydrogen, carbon, phosphorous, flow in from Sea, stay for hours or days acting out the dance of coral tissue and then move into the ever crystallizing coral skeleton or back out into open sea again.
If I look at a small piece of coral today and again tomorrow or next year it will look, to me, exactly the same. But it will not be the same at all. It will be, in only a couple of weeks, new atoms, new cells, and even a new visible skeletal layer.
It was this flow I watched, for an instant, in my mind game. Logically, I had imagined this flowing exchange of atoms to progress smoothly. But in my vision, it was not smooth at all, but burst from layer to layer of organization.
"What's happening?" Freddy sees the odd expression on my face.
"I was just thinking. We've been here for several months. I'll bet most of our atoms are now PNG atoms."
"Listen. Think of it like this. Suppose a male and a female human leave Earth in a space ship."
"I'm for that," always the science fiction fan.
"They stock the ship with Earth food, Earth water. The atoms of the ship and of the humans are products of and energized by Sol, Earth's star. OK?"
"OK. They fly to another star where they find a new planet. By the time they get there, they eat up all of their Earth food, they are running out of water despite recycling efforts, and they are running out of fuel, too. They don't have enough fuel to land the space ship so they take a life capsule down to the surface of the new planet. It crashes.
"The two humans step out onto the new planet. Their bodies are made of Sol's atoms, energized by Sol's atoms. But with their first breath they begin to assimilate atoms and energy from the new star. Fortunately, the air is just great. The water is fine. There is plenty of life so they find food they can eat.
"They slough off their skin by washing in the streams, urinate away their old, used amino acids and minerals, shit and sweat and exhale their wastes until, within 4 months, they replace all the atoms in their fleshy parts.
"Here's the thing, OK? All the Sol-Earth atoms are gone, completely, within a year. Even in their bones. The man and the woman from Earth now have bodies made up of new atoms made by the new star and their energy is entirely provided by the new star. They look the same as before, but are now Earth Human forms composed entirely of alien materials."
"OK," says Freddy, looking at something on the stove. "And so?"
"So what flew in on the spaceship?" I ask, grinning.
She thinks for a moment, "I give up, what?"
"An idea. A concept. A way to behave. A pattern of atomic, cellular, organic movement. A dance."
"What happened to the old atoms?" Freddy asks.
"That's not the point."
"I just want to know what happened to the old atoms." She insists.
"Well, they are there, scattered around here and there on the new planet. You know, in the air, in the ground, in the native plants and animals." I wave my hand around, exasperated she has missed my fantastic, mystical, significant discovery.
"That's what I find interesting," she says, and brings dinner to the table.
"This has something to do with uplift," I frown into my plate of delicious lamb stew.
"What's wrong with the stew?" Freddy looks worried.
"No, no, not the stew. Sorry. I meant the atoms business. I was thinking about how atoms flowed from everywhere in the sea and formed into living corals and then flowed back again. There was something about the way the flow happened. It reminds me of the whole problem of one civilization uplifting another."
"Well flow some of that stew into your face," she hands me the mint sauce. "It will uplift your brain."