Layer by Layer

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layer by layer

Lately I’ve had an increasing feeling of moving through life, in a literal sense. My whole existence–anyone’s, really–can be traced on a map: at times erratic, spidery tendrils; at other times tightly-wound coils, gentle loops, or well-worn scribbles trudging back and forth from A to B, so forceful and thick they tear the page as the years pass. We’re all just travelling through the places that make up our life stories: time and space, inextricably entwined.

Science tells us our eggs are formed by 20 weeks gestation, which means all the potential children we could have are halfway determined before we’re even born. Science is wonderful, isn’t it? There’s something beautifully comforting about the idea that I started my journey in my grandmother’s womb, and you started yours in my mother’s. It’s amazing to think I existed long before my life began, as I’ve traced my paths in all these years, you were with me too. Or, part of you was: science also tells us sperm take only a couple of months to mature. We’re all perfect amalgamations of old and new.

This chain of existence takes us all the way back to the beginning of humanity–whether you believe that beginning was a lush and innocent garden, a glistening clam shell clutched by a raven, or a slow and deliberate slouch wet with primordial soup, something of you was there. So many stories have been cut short since then, but we’re the children of the ones who survived, who themselves are children of survivors, and so on back to the start.

The world is just so big sometimes, it’s hard to know what to do with the overwhelming immensity of it all. But we’ve never been alone, and this unbearable weight of life has never been ours to carry on our own.

And you’re still very small. So small you can fit into the little spaces we never noticed before: between your dresser and the bedroom wall; under the coffee table in our living room; inside the nooks and crannies of our hearts that have only just been dusted out after all these years. When you were born we marvelled at the tiny precision of your parts; we traced your fingers, toes and ears, incredulous that they could even be made in miniature; your hair, painted with such a fine brush.

Despite this smallness, my love, you hold a universe within you: all the stories of our past, the fullness of our present, and the promise of our future. All the potential any of us are born with now lives in you too.

So, as you move through this life–as you stumble and fumble and sail through this wild world that’s as much yours now as it is anyone else’s, drawing your own loops and darts on the map of your story–never forget that once you were within someone within someone, sheltered and protected by layer after layer. And each one of them was joy and sadness and thrill and striving and pain. And each one of them was love.


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