When people ask me where I’m from, I don’t know how to answer. The first place that enters my mind is not a dull town nestled between crime and complacency in a sunken Ohio valley. I think of outer space—the grand scheme—not the arbitrary boundaries laid out by humans.
What feels right to say then?
They found life-enabling molecules in the Orion Nebula—jittery microbes all blister and bluster and unstained by oxygen.
Nebulas are star nurseries, many of them bright and beautiful because of the light particles emitting from nearby stars. These photons illuminate the gases from within and glow in brilliant undulating expanses across the cosmos. Nebulas are born when galaxies form, as some areas become pocketed with potential and thus create colorful abstract paintings against the cold dark canvas of space. In these star factories, hydrogen clusters to itself, compresses over time and ignites. A star is born. A star fuses helium, carbon, oxygen. A star dies. A dead star builds solar systems. A dead star births life.
In Orion, ionized clouds larger than cities and planets billow into space. Stars swarm and explode in a glorious million-year dance. The scientists and reporters say all of life’s ingredients are there. Before I knew of science, my eyes taught me the ways of the cosmos. I could look up at the night and feel at home. For all these years and even now, I’m imprinted with a tremendous sensation of fledging civilizations calling out, sensing that they are also struggling to overcome the litany of dying light.
Perhaps the early vibrations of life landed here from Orion, carried by an asteroid via intent or lottery. It’s been hypothesized that meteorites drenched in amino acids did just that. They crashed into the surface, soaked into the soil, and boiled up with Earth’s water into twitching amoebas when the temperature was right. Maybe the Orion Nebula is our mother, our father, our god. Maybe the classification of it as an emission nebula has a double-meaning. After all, it is the only nebula close enough to see with the naked eye. Look for the fuzzy blotch below Orion’s belt. That may be your creator looking back.
Then again, perhaps not. Another theory is that our ancestral DNA may have already been floating in the large, dusty cloud that burst into our sun and was inevitably drawn into the planets, spawning life on the only one lucky enough to sustain a rich atmosphere and protective magnetic shield. Science hypothesizes more than it answers.
Steeped in Orion’s rich organic broth is the possibility of a civilization that could be born or already has. One way or another, the microbes that began the evolutionary process on Earth likely descended from the stars. Our lifespan may be too short to witness the secrets of origin unfold, but when I gaze at Orion’s constellation in the winter sky, I’m possessed by a sense of unity. I feel a warmth, a comfort in having a part in the sublime complexity we know as the universe. Despite the immense distance between celestial bodies, nothing makes me feel less alone than the light of the stars. For this reason, I consider myself free from country and land. The size of our cosmos is so vast that it seems trivial to name a city or state or any region of dirt as my home. We are born from the nebulas, the gases and clouds that birth our molecules—each step we take on this earth and the air that we breathe from those tiny fluttering things who fight to exist.
Sin Ribbon is a storyteller on page, canvas
and screen—her work culminated from poetry, screenplays, films and paintings. An eclectic blend, she draws from the philosophical and spiritual to spin existential tales of encouragement and consequence. Her works originate from the caverns of introspection and explore issues of identity, origin, loss and depression, and the quest for meaning. You can find her art on her website at http://sinribbon.com and her narrative podcast, 'In Her Burning: A Surreal Diary,' on iTunes.
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Photo by Greg Rakozy on Unsplash
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