6 Degrees of Interconnection

45° The angle at which the heads of commuters on the 8:16 morning train are locked while swiping their phones to make fragments of text and digital candy disappear, lest the things on their screens grow long and nourishing like daydreams of fresh baguettes and weekend meanders outside the city, up to the mountain headwaters, that central source.

65° The angle at which other heads of commuters on the 8:16 morning train are positioned in their search for other eyes—watery and reddened perhaps from fussy babies or a hard night out, or restless and darting from imagining worst-case scenarios in some future job interview. The eyes tack into the storm of faces, seeking stories and solace in this gorgeous, desperate city, even if only for an instant—lock and release.

90° The preferred inclination to carry out a conversation, especially with a curious child after arriving late to volunteer at a biodiversity museum, because the best way to talk to and more importantly learn from a four-year-old is to bend down low so you can look him straight in his round brown eyes as he clutches his toy humpback named Charlie and starts talking whales, fin whales gray whales right whales and, naturally, blue whales, like the one soaring over your heads.

135° How far up you must crane your head to take in the eighty-five-foot skeleton articulated in a lunge-feeding pose week in and week out as you try to grasp the magnitude of her being while pacing beneath her ribcage, comparing hand bones to flipper bones and leg bones to pelvic bones, pondering the six years you were alive on this earth together before a ship strike stole her life.

180° The degree at which you contemplate transience on a moonless August night standing atop a mountain to watch the Perseid meteor showers with your jaw agape, partly due to awe but partly because staring straight up is conducive to slack jawedness, all the while sifting through the ambient chatter of chips crunching and dogs barking and people prattling on in Chinese and English and Korean and French until a streak of fire slashes the firmament, teaching them to gasp all at once, that mother tongue.

Because sometimes you should switch things up and see the world from above as well as below, so that you can notice the kinnikinnick carpeting the forest floors after learning its name, or the pink spine of a pigeon linking flight feathers together to form a miniature and grotesque angel, or the industriousness of sidewalk ants bustling to and fro, like commuters on a train, except the ants know each other very well, being close of kin, never worry about job interviews or loneliness, being hive minded and united, and have no need for tiny glittering screens that can distract them from their very full and present lives.

 

Isaac Yuen is the creator of Ekostories, an online essay collection connecting nature, culture, and identity. He lives in Vancouver on the unceded territory of the Coast Salish peoples.

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