Earlier this summer, Kera Willis (who you might recognise as a Farmers Market musician, the Mountain Horse School founder, or from a million of her other wonderful contributions) shared this new research. (It seems that there is more in our bones than we realize… fish ear stones create a map of their world, our bones also (and not adrenaline) drive our fight or flight response.) This insight inspired a poem. I have read it over and over and just can’t not share.
“Conveniently, fish harbor a perfect tool to map their habitat mosaic: ear stones, or otoliths, that accumulate mineral layers across their lifespan. In a sliced ear stone, these layers looks just like tree rings—and relay similar information. The stones form as calcium carbonate from the river water accumulates over time. These layers alone wouldn’t indicate a location, but natural waterways also contain small amounts of strontium, which also gets laid down within the calcium carbonate layers. Depending on where in the fish are, the ratio of strontium isotopes varies, creating a unique chemical signature that researchers can use to determine where salmon have been living over their entire lifetime. And, the size of ear stone rings can reveal how much a fish grew in a particular environment. “
Track me through the mineral depisots
that ring the inner secrets of my ears
The taste of water. These
Sing me the years in sediment.
Keep watch. The way trees record time
not linear, no–
This year’s ring holds all
that came before it,
the lithe young years, these old
famines, the scar along the jaw that
tastes of rust. Iron in the river,
iron in the blood, the
tailings in each of us turned
toward each other always, saying, you:
You are caught in the same ring as this.
This same ocean. This same
sea of clear air. When you have moved
so far and wide that
you forget even your need for home, remember
Between my eyes/ under the sky dome of skull bone/ there is a map.
Just as yours lies
at the centre of your chest, has
recorded just as surely every place you
have ever been.
~ by Kera Willis