I don’t remember the names of most of the people I’ve met. I remember Veegan the Freegan’s name. Maybe if everyone’s names rhymed, I’d remember them. I have a hard time even remembering individuals’ distinguishing characteristics. There are the blue guys. There are others. That’s about it.
But I remember Tessa’s name. Tessa is the ranger. And she’s an individual.
“I like you, Tessa!” I tell her.
She likes me back. We talk. I try not to turn the conversation towards polar caps and polar bears and krill, but before I know it, I’m asking if she’s heard: Did the Blue Ocean Event last? What happened to the bears? What do the baleen whales eat if there are no krill?
What is a world without plankton?
“I don’t know, Cathy,” she says. “I can’t imagine there are no krill. More would be affected, right? I don’t know anything than what we see here or down in the valley, but still, I’m sure that if something that huge happened, we’d have to know it here, too, right? A sea without krill? An ocean without whales? The redwoods would know, wouldn’t they? And they’d pass it onto the pines?”
Tessa leaves for her rounds, and I remember the true Internet, the network of mycelium, transversing the forest floor, connecting every pine, elderberry, and forget-me-not in a living thoroughfare for chemical data. Communication.
I close my eyes and listen. I hear the buzz that runs up through the soles of my feet through my body. If only I had the knowledge to decode this message I would know what I want to know: the status of the earth. I think she’s well.
I follow the buzz under the canopy as pines give way to firs. The path leads to higher ground. The crystals within the granite shimmer–more data.
I understand that everywhere around me, information is being passed.
I wonder how I will understand. I listen. The buzz runs through a deep thicket in the understory, and I follow.
When I emerge, I know: The earth is well.
I don’t know about the polar bears. But I feel the whales must still be alive. The earth tells me she’s well, and an earth without whales would be in deep mourning.
At least, I think she would.
I listen, but the language has shifted, and I can’t hear it with my ears, only feel it as the data passes through me and I am unable to decode it.
I am in the high country. A waterfall fills a cobalt pool. I’m not cold, despite the elevation.
No one is around.
I pick up a fishing pole, at the edge of the waterhole, and I reel in the line, so that no unsuspecting fish will be caught.
Birdsongs cascade down from the tall firs, filling the clearing. A Western tanager flies past.
So many birds have survived. I close my eyes and listen: All these birds! I hear jays, a pileated woodpecker, a nuthatch, a flock of chickadees. I hear birds, and the earth is well.
Towards evening, I see a woman. She tells me her name. I don’t remember it. I remember her voice, which sounds like melted honey on a hot pancake.
She tells me she lives here, in the high country.
“Oh, you must be plugged in, then!” I say. When she looks at me quizzically, I add, “To the mycelium network.”
She is. I ask her what she knows.
“Everything,” she says.
She leads me through the clearing to her home, a small cabin surrounded with flowers.
I believe her.
Living up here, one knows everything.
But not everything one knows can be spoken.
I sleep under the moon, and I feel a knowledge that can’t be translated beyond the feeling.
But when I wake, it seems that the feeling is enough.
I remember I have a base camp, down in the valley. I’m not intended to stay, am I?
Can I bring back with me what I have learned, what can’t be spoken, but only felt?
It takes me all day to hike down from the high country to the pine forest below. It’s dark when I arrive, and I see a swirling blue glow in a small clearing.
The moon shines behind the glow. Tomorrow I will return to the desert.
I don’t know what this luminescence is: fungi, insect, fairy, ghost. I hear it buzzing with data, and there’s the moon again, with a voice so soft she absorbs all others. It is all right. All is well.
It is all right, and all is well, and I think the earth is well. And I am well. I remember no names, not even my own, as I drift to sleep, but the data of feeling flows through me, and I know that all is well.