Friday, October 27, 2017

The little stone

"How happy is the little stone
That rambles in the road alone,
And doesn't care about careers,
And exigencies never fears;
Whose coat of elemental brown
A passing universe put on;
And independent as the sun,
Associates or glows alone,
Fulfilling absolute decree
In casual simplicity."
- Emily Dickinson

I always write when I'm about to leave work. I'll get to the end of my day, get to a natural stopping point, feel my mind wind down, and then get the urge to write. I need to review what I've done. I need to let my thoughts settle before I can go home for the night.

It's been a busy week. I came back from Bonaire to a long list of important tasks, so I've been working through them one by one. It was overwhelming at first, but honestly, I've been massively productive. I applied for a visa for my next trip. I finished and submitted two scientific papers. I went to important meetings with other scientists. I got a new intern and started teaching her how to identify larvae. I started writing yet another paper.

Years ago, I used to always seek an end point - a time when my to-do list was empty and I could feel a sense of accomplishment. And years ago, I realized that point would never come. Now, I don't want it to. I love the cycle. I love the paper-writing, the data-analyzing, the study-designing, the trip-planning - all of it. I am happy.

The poem above has always been a favorite, but I used to wonder why Dickinson chose the image of a stone. Of all the seemingly simple, content natural objects - she could have written about a flower or a butterfly or a tree. I think of stones as dirty. They live in the dust, and they get kicked around. Especially underwater, little stones are tossed mercilessly by the waves. Pebbles and cobbles never have anything living on them; life on a little stone is just too rough.

But I think she was on to something. Stones don't complain; they don't rebel, and they don't break. They are tossed around but tough. They are content in chaos.

I love my life, and I love my science. Tonight, as I watch the yellow glow fade behind the other buildings on Water Street, I am both tossed around and tough. I am content in chaos. I am happy like a stone.

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