leopold follows atom X as it courses thru recent history since being freed from a paleozoic limestone ledge (A Sand County Almanac, 111-114): a tree root, a flower, an acorn, a deer, an indian [sic], a bluestem thru root to leaf to photosynthesize and to shade a plover’s clutch of eggs, then part of a winter’s nest for a deer mouse, earth, side-oat grama, a buffalo, its feces, earth again, a spiderwort, a rabbit, an owl, sporobolus, fire and rain–life lifting it up the hill, death down, water out to the sea; but first X became part of a gopher, which became part of a fox, which became part of an eagle, whose feathers adorned an indian who ‘with them propitiated the fates, whom he assumed had a special interest in indians. it did nor occur to him that they might be busy casting dice against gravity; that mice and men, soils and songs, might be merely ways to retard the march of atoms to the sea’–a cottonwood, a beaver that starved, silt, a crayfish, a raccoon, an indian, and when he died, the river finally returned X to the sea.
but how does the non-atomic–such as song–retard an atom? leopold keeps this alchemy secret, though on page 162 he provides clues in giving examples of food cycles, not all links of which are physical–‘the goshawk who named your river, … the quail who taught you a lesson in botany, and the turkey who daily gives you the slip’–the atom is there in the goshawk, the quail, or the turkey, not in the naming nor the lesson nor the dodge, but still there as the name draws you in, as the quail sits on the nest, as the turkey struts about–eternal atom, then living bird, then something very ephemeral and conscious and intangible yet real, and then tangible again–and the dance, the mystery, our questing, goes on, probably until the end of time.
‘time, to an atom locked in a rock, does not pass.’ for us, though, it does. we try to capture it, keep it, store it. we worry about what we have done and what have yet to do. we carry baggage. we plan and re-plan. but ‘life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans.’ do we really only have the eternal now? or is to be present to only the now simply mundane, but to seek the eternal is divine? more apparent duality. more unknown. more paradox.
i just played an hour and a half of really good chess. most of time i was totally focused on just the game. we drew. for 90 minutes i didn’t worry about my partner or my kids or myself or the state of the world or….
and nothing happened; that is, life went on anyways. except for my chess buddy, i could have died and nobody would have known.
i know this. it matters, but is time itself matter? i know this but do i feel this? what am to feel? content? dispassionate (unsuffering) or dispassionate (unsympathetic)? if you’re an atom, what can you know, what can you feel, what does it matter?