To say that each of us is unique is to state the obvious. From the biological perspective we are unique in terms of the linear sequence of nucleotides which makes up our DNA. From the psychological perspective our individual and highly contingent histories dictate that no two of us can be the same. With regard to the former, and because he was the grandson of Thomas Henry Huxley (Darwin’s most ardent of supporters) I have always held a special place of appreciation for Aldous Huxley and, especially, this poem which he wrote.
A million million spermatozoa,
All of them alive:
Out of their cataclysm but one poor Noah
Dare hope to survive.
And among that billion minus one
Might have chanced to be
Shakespeare, another Newton, a new Donne –
But the One was Me.
Consider the particular intricacies of our individual lives. The myriad of unpredictable events which, when summed across the decades, have collectively determined the direction that each of our lives has taken. But this post is about the places that have been the focal points of our experience. In the same way that we reflect on critical events, places too have been important. The Venn diagram which describes the places which have played important roles in my life and in Joanna’s overlaps at Star Island, part of a small chain of oceanic islands off the coast of New Hampshire. In addition, Joanna’s list of formative places includes the Ringwood Preserve, a very special natural area overseen by Cornell Plantations. It was at this place that, when still very young, she learned to appreciate nature in its myriad forms. It was at this place that she would find a friend in nature and learned to feel close to both plants and to animals. It was here that she learned about vernal ponds (shown below), their inhabitants and surrounding habitat, and the fragility and vulnerability of both. And it was one of many places that we learned to experience nature, together.