“Unlike fireflies, glowworms and other bioluminescent creatures, fluorescent corals don’t glow on their own. Instead, they absorb one color of light, and emit light of another color—a process known as fluorescence.”
Fluorescent Corals remind me of this tree that is on a narrow street in southern Thailand. The roots are cracking the pavement and an old weathered prayer flag is wrapped around the trunk several times. Five years ago I was jogging down that road, something I did nearly every day then, and a thought struck me so suddenly and with such weight, and from seemingly out of nowhere, that it stopped me right there—on the side of the road, hands on my knees, breathing heavily and staring up at that tree.
“If that tree wasn’t there, I wouldn’t be here.” That was the thought. But now I am no longer able to recreate the weight of that thought in my mind. I can just remember the actual words.
Have I forgotten the depths of Buddhism in the same way I have forgotten how to speak Thai? Or in the same way in where it’s hard to run even 3 miles when I take a break from running every day—when there are times my body can run marathons? Can the under-used muscle of the spirit go slack like the mind and the body?
Fluorescent Corals remind me of my diaries from when I was a girl. Now I read them in wonderment. I read them standing up by the desk in my childhood bedroom dressed like an adult because I am an adult. I read them and am proud and embarrassed and filled with infinite marvel all at once.
Who was this girl? And what’s even more confusing is where did she go? This girl in my diary, sitting on her bed in her pajamas who had so many feelings. This girl who was just writing and writing and writing and trying to figure it out—and by “it” I mean trying to figure herself out. And her parents were just downstairs, those foreign creatures, her parents watching television and passing the popcorn just oblivious—oblivious, she imagined, of ever understanding the depths of this girl who was sitting in her bedroom right above their heads with thoughts that blow around inside of her so violently, so perpetually they are like a wind vortex spinning a pile of dead leaves in a cyclone on the street in front of her suburban home.
The girl’s pen dries up. Me, the adult, shuts the diary. I’m busy and have to go somewhere else. I’m not at my parents’ house to read my old diaries after all.
“Why are we afraid of death,” I ask later high or drunk one night in my adult bed. “When we have died so many times? When people we once were are dead and gone right now and they will never ever possibly come back in the physical form as we knew them? But their presence, their essence and lessons are with us—invisibly alive inside of us always.”
“Haven’t we already died, died as we understand it—like physically just gone forever—so many times before?”
If that girl in my diary wasn’t there, then I wouldn’t be here now.
I understand it then.
Fluorescent Corals remind me that we are all just products of the people and environment that have and do surround us throughout our lives. Fluorescent Corals remind me of a poem or story I want to write but can’t think of anything better to say then what they are and what they do. They remind me that I’m not alone. That I’m not special. That I am part of you and you are a part of me and if that tree wasn’t living and breathing that time on a narrow street in the South Thailand I would not be here, writing this now, in this moment—which is the only moment in which I, as I am right now, is and will ever be alive.