Just across this ocean - which was half the size of Alma’s shawl - she found another continent of moss altogether. On this new continent, everything was different. This corner of the boulder must receive more sunlight than any other, she surmised. Or slightly less rain? In any case, this was a new climate entirely. Here, the moss grew in mountain ranges the length of Alma’s arms, in elegant, pine-tree shaped clusters of darker, more somber green. On another quadrant of the same boulder still, she found patches of infinitesimally small deserts, inhabited by some kind of sturdy, dry, flaking moss that had the appearance of cactus. Elsewhere, she found deep, diminutive fjords - so deep that, incredibly, even now in the month of June - the mosses within were still chilled by the lingering traces of winter ice. But she also found warm estuaries, miniature cathedrals, and limestone caves the size of her thumb.
Then Alma lifted her face and saw what was before her - dozens more such boulders, more than she could count, each one similarly carpeted, each one subtly different. She felt herself growing breathless. This was the entire world. This was bigger than the world. This was the firmament of the universe, as seen through on of William Herschel’s mighty telescopes. This was planetary and vast. These were ancient, unexplored galaxies, rolling forth in front of her - and it was all right here! She could still see her house from here. She could see the old familiar boats on the Schuylkill River. She could hear the distant voices of her father’s orchardmen working in the peach grove. If Hanneke had run the bell for mealtime at that very instant, she would have heard it.
Alma’s world and the moss world had been knitted together this whole time, lying on top of each other, crawling over each other. But one of these worlds was loud and large and fast, where the other was quiet and tiny and slow - and only one of these worlds seem immeasurable.
Alma sank her fingers into the shallow green fur and felt a surge of joyful anticipation. This could belong to her! No botantist before her had every committed himself uniquely to the study of this undervalued phylum, but Alma could do it. She had the time for it, as well as the patience. She had the competence. She most certainly had the microscopes for it…
Recognizing all this, Alma’s existence at once felt bigger and much, much smaller - but a pleasant sort of smaller. The world had scaled itself down into endless inches of possibility. Her life could be lived in generous miniature. Best of all, Alma realized, she would never learn everything about mosses - for she could tell already that there was simply too much of the stuff in the world; they were everywhere, and they were profoundly varied. She would probably die of old age before she understood even half of what was occurring in this one single boulder field. Well, huzzah to that! It meant that Alma had work stretched ahead of her for the rest of her life. She need not be idle. She need not be unhappy. Perhaps she need not even be lonely.
She had a task. She would learn mosses.
"Praise be the labors that lie before me," she said. "Let us begin."
The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert
These golden darts filled the whole of the air, swirling like leaves in a massive storm. Wings. The darts themselves also were wings. Butterflies. How had she failed to see them? She felt stupid, or blind, in a way that went beyond needing glasses. Unreceptive to truth. She’d been willing to take in the run of emotions that stood up the hairs on her neck, the wonder, but had shuttered her eyes and looked without seeing. The density of the butterflies in the air now gave her a sense of being underwater, plunged into a deep pond among bright fishes. They filled the sky. Out across the valley, the air itself glowed golden. Every tree of the far mountainside was covered with trembling flame, and that, of course, was butterflies. She had carried this vision inside herself for so many days in ignorance, like an unacknowledged pregnancy. The fire was alive, and incomprehensibly immense, an unbounded, uncountable congregation of flame-colored insects.
This time they revealed themselves in movement, as creatures in flight. That made the difference. The treetops and ravines all appeared in strange relief, exposed by the trick of air as a visible quantity. Air filled with quivering butterfly light. The space between trees glittered, more real nd alive than the trees themselves. The scaly forest still bore the same bulbous burden in its branches she’d seen before, even more of it, if possible. The drooping branches seemed bent to the breaking point under their weight. Of butterflies. The verity of that took her breath. A million times nothing weighed nothing.
Flight Behavior - Barbara Kingsolver
Urban living has always tended to produce a sentimental view of nature. Nature is thought of as a garden, or a view framed by a window, or as an arena of freedom. Peasants, sailors, nomads have known better. Nature is energy and struggle. It is what exists without any promise. If it can be thought of by man as an arena, a setting, it has to be thought of as one which lends itself as much to evil as to good. Its energy is fearsomely indifferent. The first necessity for life is shelter. Shelter against nature. The first prayer is for protection. The first sign of life is pain. If Creation was purposeful, its purpose is a hidden one which can only be discovered intangibly with signs, not by evidence of what happens.
I think the best attitude for a serious futurist to have is not pessimism or optimism, but just a deep sense of engagement. It has to mean something to dyou. You have to find aspects of it that can really compel you. And you shouldn’t get hung up on whether it’s “good” or “bad” because these qualities can change their coloration quite rapidly as time continues to pass.
Interview Excerpt, Massive Change, Bruce Mao and the Institute without Boundaries.
Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children