So what is this?
This is a very short work, prompted by the following two quotes:
“Talk, loudly and frequently and in detail, about the future you want. You can’t manifest what you don’t share.”
~ Madeline Ashby
“Remember to imagine and craft the worlds you cannot live without, just as you dismantle the ones you cannot live within.”
~ Ruha Benjamin
Endless Forms Most Beautiful
Novel biological systems.
“Turns out computer science and biological science are really the same thing, studying computation in different media.”
This simple understanding, and all that it entails, is what my grandmother said was the turning point. She ought to know. She was there. She lived through the ’20 pandemic, the water wars, and the last age of oil. She never gave up on the planet, nor her daughters. Sure you know her name, and all the stories of the awards, fame, and the praise she received in her lifetime. So I am not going to tell you that story. I want to tell you about me, her granddaughter, and a few of small quiet times we had together.
So I was born in that horrible year of ’32. Yes it sucked. But I was too young, and sheltered from most of it. My story begins in ’38. When my mom ran away to my grandma’s farm. Yes “that” farm, the one with the lab that changed everything. That first day, the day we arrived, the only thing I remember is the strong smell of fresh baking bread. I had no idea what it was, but by watching the grownups I knew it was a good smell. We all plied into the enormous kitchen, everyone talking at the same time. And there was grandma pulling the fresh bread out of the oven and putting it on a rack to cool.
Still to this day, that yeasty smell, and grandma are all mixed up. Yes her original work began with yeast. But by the time she moved all her lab work to the farm, she was well beyond that. I also remember that she pulled a chair over to the counter, and showed me how to slice the warm loaf, and spread butter. She trusted me with the large serrated knife. Guiding my hand the first time, then leaving me alone to figure it out. What my mom always called “grandma’s way” show once, and let the mistakes happen.
It took me about two weeks of exploring, to find my way around the land, it’s forest, streams, and fields. Mom didn’t like me running outside at first light. I think grandma spoke to her, because grandma always seemed to know exactly where I was, and would walk slowly to where I was hiding. Then she would sit in silence and wait for the thousands of my questions. Each answer was a long story about this or that, ending in the connections between everything.
So yes most things we do today, to heal the planet, feed ourselves, produce fresh water, and electricity, all come from grandma’s work, and the hundreds of others that took up her ideas. Grandma refuses to claim she ever said it, but “Let nature do it, and if she won’t, teach her how.” Is now so well known that she might as well have had it tattooed on her forearm.
Yet I remember most the way she never talked down to me. The way she would pull out old books for me to read. The way she sparked up when seeing a new fawn, or fledgling in the woods. She held curiosity as a goddess, and was universally known for saying, “Why the hell not.”
One day deep in winter, when I was 15, she came to find me in my favorite spot, reading near the big transparent wood wall that made up the south side of the house. She had been busy that winter. Working on a new way to grow the complex of organisms that once spread out on a large nutrient base provided most of the world’s food. She looked tired, and travel weary. Yet when she spoke it was warm and kind.
She asked where did I want to go and study, next summer. It being the start of my four service years. I did not really want to leave the farm, but I knew it was what everyone expected me to do. She rattled off a short list of places and people I could go and work with. Then with a grandmother’s perception saw that I really did not want to leave. Then she did the unexpected. She stood up and saluted me, just in that way that all Service personnel are greeted around the world. She turned away and said, “Yep, it is going to be hard, but also fun, so decide soon.”
Now years later. I remember that salute as a turning point in my own life. That when your grandma salutes you for work you have not yet done. You had better get on with it, and do it right the first time.