precious pearls in oyster’s flesh

March 6, 2012

This morning I was sitting at a red light in a patch of sun and after a while I realized that no thought had crossed the hamster wheel for a certain and indefinite period of time, and my head and each eye were off to one side or another in the blissful vacuous lilt of a body part whose every function has given way to supreme sensual occupation. I just sat there in butter yellow sunshine and all my consciousness danced out my right ear unnoticed as a whisper along a current of piano metal. One finger on the wheel, one fist of fingers senseless on the stick shift, eyes slid far apart and seeing worlds yet registering nothing. And then the light changed and my brain acknowledged all of this with a sudden sheepish start, and I threw the car into gear and peeled out. And ever since I have been absolutely tingling with gratitude for my senses. Right now the keys under my fingertips are smooth and warm and slightly slick around the raised edges; the ravines between each key tantalize with their ticklish lack of plastic. Coffee sits colding in a beloved old avocado green mug, smelling like the touch of flannel sheets on a pine tree morning and tasting like productivity on paper.

God I am just so glad to have the fully functional use of my limbs and senses. I feel luckier than is probably sustainably possible every time it occurs to me that there are persons in the world who are missing one or the other or several. I feel then that all I ever want from my life, really, is the sweet singing ability to run and jump and bend over backwards. Nothing brings me greater pleasure than the sharpened velvet secrets my eyes find. No one moves my soul right out my self like an excellent melody. This is what I mean whenever you hear me say that I love my body: it WORKS. It works SO WELL. It rocks me like a hurricane, it folds me in the silken embraces of horizon lines, it makes me roll with laughter until my ribs ache and it forms gentle fiery tears in the nooks of my eyes. I am so fucking grateful that it works, and I am so damn glad that I get to have it for the duration of this peregrination.

In a somewhat related color scheme, I am now moved to share with you the beautiful work of my friend Matt. For as long as I have known him, which is actually verging on an impressive number of years at this point, he has been studying and researching and working long hours with gorgeous intent. His larger dream is that his research will aid in the war against cancer, and he has to the best of my comprehension been pursuing an understanding of the origin and function of cell development in general so as to better understand the spread of cancer. Recently he has been studying a group of stem cells in embryonic development that have the potential to become one of three different types of mature cell. They will develop as either the sensory and support cells of the inner ear, or the bundle of nerves that relay information from the sensory cells of the inner ear back to the brain, or a population of nerves that relay sensory information from the taste buds, throat and viscera back to the brain. It is so fucking amazing that the thrill of every magical sense begins at some small point and unfolds into a specific, pristine mechanism intelligently selected and perfectly formed. Matt’s research is focused on the question, how do the developing stem cells in this scenario decide which of these three different possible fates they will choose?

Here are some images that he’s made on the confocal microscope in his lab. They are of the developing cranial region of early zebrafish larva. The oval shaped structure in the first image is of the forming inner ear, and the bundles of cells surrounding it are developing peripheral nerve relay centers. The second image has all cells of the larva labeled in blue (a DNA dye) then in green are the forming nerves that help process the sense of taste as well as the status of the heart and viscera.

we are all


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