Saturday, November 27, 2010

Bleeding on the outside

I tossed an Ava lure into a 20 knot wind this morning, hoping to land a striped bass.

I wasn't sure how I cut myself, but I had. A tiny trickle of flame bled into the ocean, millions of red blood cells, thousands of white cells, now feeding the innumerable creatures I'll never see. My hands were numb from the stiff November sea breeze. Time to go home.

We talk of bleeding on the inside, and some of us do. Bleeding ulcers, hemorrhagic strokes, and broken hearts are all very human traits.

I prefer bleeding outside. We are part of a wild world, a world that exceeds any Heaven any of us can imagine, any Hell used to manipulate us. Every time I spill blood on a beach I am giving back to the sea that feeds me.

Our blood bathes us like the sea water of our origins. We rinse our sins and our wounds with water, washing away invisible (but real) threats.


Any one of our white blood cells carries a whole genome, enough to make you you or me me (excepting for the mitochondria, intracellular aliens on whom we depend, another story for another day).

Our most common white cell, the neutrophil slithers through our vessels, and can slide in and out of a vein as needed, to attack foreign invaders.

The neutrophil can wrap itself around critters tinier than we can imagine, critters that consume us. The neutrophils do this every moment we are alive, sacrificing themselves, separate from us because they act as independent agents, part of us because they are us.

Incomprehensible, really.

If you swallowed a long enough piece of dental floss, maybe attaching a small indigestible weight at its head, you could, I imagine, end up with ends extruding from both your mouth and your anus. I suppose you could floss your gut, but a healthy dose of oatmeal will serve the same purpose.

We're really huge toroids, doughnuts with four limbs. We eat to grab energy from bonds formed by plants using the sun's energy. We eat to grab complex molecules we cannot form ourselves. Our gut is wide open to the world. It keeps the neutrophils busy.


It's late November. If we had any sense, we'd toss out the incandescent lamps, the fluorescent hum, the glow of plasma screens and sleep, as our ancestors did, when the sun goes down.

Because we don't, our neutrophils, ourselves, spend a lot of time and energy fighting demons we create. Coronary artery disease, peptic ulcers, even breast cancer are mostly modern inventions.

I spent a lovely day tossing a piece of metal at the gods, my feet bathed by their sweet saline, my face bathed by their sweet dying light.

How can I teach children about phospholipid bilayers and nucleic acids when I spend late November believing in little except the small grace gained by fishing in the dying light of a dying year?

How can I teach children what "year" means when we attempted to change it because the constant revisions disrupted our satellite communication. (The sun keeps shedding mass--turns out depending on our orbit in relation to the sun fluctuates.)


Children should not bleed on the inside nor the outside, but if my children had to do either, I'd pick the latter. We read of ancient rites, of blood poured, and we shudder, as we should.

What of the rites we put our children through, trading curiosity and creativity for a life groomed for bettering the economy, for protecting our "homeland"?

Last fall my own children saw the arc of a bluefish's blood stain my sweatshirt as I cut its gill arches. I had rendered the fish unconscious moments before with a club to its head. Its heart still beat, its neutrophils emanating from the blood vessels, seeking to fight an enemy they could not fathom.

The blood soaked the sand, feeding the critters underneath, and the flesh fed us hours later.

There are a lot of ways to die. If I exsanguinate, please let it be on the outside, God, please let it be on the outside.

Yes, I know, that's a bluefish, caught by my firstborn.
She does not like to kill. Neither do I. We both enjoyed eating the blue.

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