Wednesday, August 10, 2011

When God is gone, everything is holy

Patiently, silently, on the window sill as I sleep at night, at my elbow as I type, unobserved when I'm out and about, my lettuce seeds turn soil, water and air into billowing sprays of succulent leaves.

The outdoor garden is a disaster. By this time last year I was eating peas and radishes. This year, nothing. The coolest summer on record. Back in June, rows of tiny seedlings poked their noses out of the ground and went no further. Even the baby lettuce plants I bought in town to give the garden a head start faltered.

But here, in my big south-sloping window, with M's rich compost to feed on and our body heat to keep them warm, my indoor plants burgeon. That miniscule fuse in the seed. That foot-long twist of DNA whispering its age-old song, GTACGGGTACCAT. Rearranging the universe.

Literally.

I look at the APOD every morning, the Astronomy Picture of the Day. Star-birthing nebulas. Galaxies and clusters. Supernova remnants. Thermonuclear engines forging atoms, spewing them into space. Every carbon and oxygen atom in my lettuces was assembled in a star, spilled into the interstellar abyss, stirred by waves of radiation, gathered by gravity. Looking at the APOD each morning is like looking into the furnace of creation, into something out of a Blake watercolor -- the Pleiades singing hosannas.

A lettuce seed rearranging the universe. "Earth cannot escape the sky," wrote the 14th-century mystic Meister Eckhart; "let it flee up or down, the sky flows into it, and makes it fruitful whether it will or no. So God does to man. He who will escape him only runs to his bosom."