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breathing in flowers

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Nature dreams, sometimes, that she could roll onto the tips of her toes, shake her earthen shoulders from side to side, and crack the mountain range of her spine. What clings to her and hollows the mountains out with explosives or axes might slide off and shake itself to pieces, and she could go on sleeping without the constant itch.

She likes and loathes change in equal measure. Like most things, or maybe more than most, inertia weighs on her, pulling her downward, to sleep. She would generally prefer to dream of blue pools and forests. She wants to think of the tiny, intricate work she's done over ages, work on individual pieces of DNA and on probabilities and populations, to create the patterns on the wings of each particular butterfly. But there is still something thrilling about change and mass extinction, something intoxicating she tastes every time lightning strikes fires. She gets bored, sleeping so still, shaping the odds that will shape her children, and sometimes she wants to dance.

But then there are her children to consider.

Some of them give her more attention than others, some of them notice her more than others. Some children go off and are forgotten, while some, grown, become their parents' friends. Beetles are in a state of near-static, eternal union with her: they speak of their own dreams to her and she accordingly makes more of them by the hundreds of thousand, each new design wonderful and irreplaceable in its own right. But the short lived species and rare typologies carry their own preciousness. Nature, like most, appreciates novelty, the newness of an idea.

Humans are a new idea, one she spent too long trying to get right, consigning hominid species to history like a frustrated artist tossing away sketches. She is not entirely certain that she made the right choice keeping this latest one around, not certain at all. She is always a capricious mother, inclined to forget about projects for millennia or destroy them in a fit of neglect or rage.

The thing is, some of the humans tell her stories that she appreciates, that she can almost see - and after some several billion years telling most of the stories herself, to listen to someone else's imagination doing the work is its own novelty.

They aren't the first to come up with it and they won't be the last. All the same, their stories have a particular shade to them, a variation on imagery and concepts something like but broader than characterization and plot that she's grown to like. She doesn't want the stories to end, doesn't want to consign them, frozen, to her memory. She isn't yet ready to make humans into skeletal mementos stacked within the rock layer that call up fading associations. She finishes each new story and wants another.

They give her flowers. They give her songs, too, and the kind of food humans eat. They also, when they tell stories, give her companions. With their words and thoughts she can see the characters, the gods, like they dance beyond the mountain tops out of her reach. She imagines fancifully that they're really there. Perhaps she is only unable to crane her head around to spot them fluttering in the hollow of her hip or the crevices in her spine. She remembers the ones who are supposed to be parts of her or other names for her and the ones who aren't. She hears them whether the stories are told by whole empires or by a few dedicated humans or by single, lonely children in the dark, comforting themselves, unable to ever pass their stories on.

Nature is fundamentally a story teller, carving out of random chance and survival and odds beauty and intention. Like most, she values in others what she sees as valuable in herself.

Lately, though, the story telling has grown thin and repetitive. Most of her children don't bring her flowers anymore. They have come to value their stories more than her, forgotten her in favor of a few favorite characters they elevate above her. They don't share their meals with her, don't sing to her except by accident. They swarm over the land, take over those of the humans who remember her, make them like themselves, until it seems that none of the humans at all still call her Mother.

She resents this; most mothers do, when forgotten. Sometimes the resentment grows fierce in her belly and she thrashes, waking from dreams that have become nightmares, slopping water in the oceans and drowning the edge of the land, shaking mountains together or apart. Sometimes she thinks she could shake them all off of her into space - if they think themselves so superior to her, to the rest of life, why not go entirely alone?

But not all of them have forgotten her. There are those who have not become like the ones who spurn her. There are still those who see in the mountains something like them, alive and aware. There are still flowers for her - a double gift, the choosing of other parts of her creation as beautiful and the return of it to her. There are still songs, and stories she hasn't grown tired of hearing.

And sometimes when she listens to the ones who still bring her flowers, she hears other things. Her children tell her about the pain and the loss when the earth shakes or when crops die, and she feels something that can never quite be guilt, but is a cousin to it. She wants to tell them that it's their own fault, for bringing this change upon her and ruining some of her favorites among her other stories. But they tell her that they're afraid of these changes too, they ask her for help stopping them. She has to remember that just as every beetle has its own heart, the humans are not all alike either.

Sometimes they don't know quite enough to tell her those things. They don't know how to sing for her or where to put flowers or even how to try without a guide, but they know enough to ask the question. They have cast off her memory but stopped, part but not all the way to losing themselves, and balked. They turn halfway back and don't know how to return. They know enough to look with clear eyes at the water and the forest and the mountains and long for something they can't identify. They long for her.

They need her. It would not be fair of her to toss them off her into space, to snap, "Live without me, then!"

She does not need them in return. She will go on long after she has grown tired of this latest idea. But she would miss them, a little. She misses everything she's lost. And she has lost so much.

They reach out and she reaches back. When one breathes out, the other breathes in.