Monday, January 29, 2007



"birds migrate toward the equator when days shorten because their brain converts changes in day length to hormonal signals that activate migratory behavior."

p. richerson & r. boyd
not by genes alone
[which i began reading this week for a seminar i'm taking on cultural evolution.]


The human brain, wrinkled slug, knows
like a computer, like a violinist, like
a bloodhound, like a frog. We remember
backwards a little and sometimes forwards,
but mostly we think in the ebbing circles
a rock makes on the water.

The salmon hurtling upstream seeks
the taste of the waters of its birth
but the seabird on its four-thousand-mile
trek follows charts mapped on its genes.
The brightness, the angle, the sighting
of the stars shines in the brain luring
till inner constellation matches outer.

The stark black rocks, the island beaches
of waveworn pebbles where it will winter
look right to it. Months after it set
forth it says, home at last, and settles.
Even the pigeon beating its short whistling
wings knows the magnetic tug of arrival.

marge piercy
from 'the perpetual migration'


it's been a trying week, the kind you can't think your way out of. i know that the style is to say how reason and language set us apart, but hopefully m.p. is right and we're built to recognize even (especially) what we can't say or reason.

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