Ming the clam was found off the coast of Iceland in 2006. He was killed by scientists hoping to learn about climate change over the last 1000 years. When they opened him up they discovered he was 507 years old, which would have made him the oldest known living animal on the planet, except that they had killed him. I’ve been thinking about him all day today, and so I wrote this.
Ming the clam, I am sorry your 507 year old life was cut short so scientists could see how old you were. I’m sorry you were stolen from your home in the ocean and that your beautiful shell was pried open to count the rings that marked your years.
I’m sorry you were torn from your burrow on the ocean floor, It must have been a quiet place to live, lovely, with the sunlight barely a trickle, a faint shimmer in the waters above.
Did you have friends there? Family? Other Shelled Ones you loved?
Did you know anything of the changes taking place above you, far away on dry land? The seething masses of people, and their insatiable appetites?
Did you hear stories of the two leggeds, and tell them to others? Could you taste the chemicals that came to lace your waters, the plastic particles mixed with the plankton?
We have lost our way, and have become confused, wandering in the darkness, lonely and afraid. We have forgotten that everything is alive, that we are all connected, that what happens to one affects all.
We think that answers only come from labs, from test tubes, and vials, microscopes and syringes. From lab coats, and hard earned degrees.
But we are like children, without understanding, but worse. We are children armed with shiny gadgets and sharp knives, we act before we think, and no longer respect the wisdom of our elders.
If there were things they needed to know, they could have asked you. They could have cupped you in an outstretched hand, kneeling on the ocean floor,
they never thought to ask you what the world was like when you were born, what the whales sound like when they sing, and where the turtles go to find their mates.
If they had they would have know that your life was just beginning as the Renaissance rushed into Europe with its masterpieces and great minds, that Columbus was just starting the sinister conquest of a rich and beautiful land, and the Ming Dynasty in China was building its’ great wall.
You could have told them about the deep and cold waters of your home off the coast of Iceland, the lullabies of the humpback whales who nurse their babies until the age of one, the haunting wails of the ancient ones, warm blooded mammals of the sea.
You might have spoken of the leatherbacks, turtles who inhabit the deepest water, eating glowing jellyfish, laying the eggs containing their babies in good faith on the beach,
and you might have whispered the secrets of your long life, showed us the softness of the ocean floor, the still calm inside your burrow.
But you’re gone now, all broken up, and scooped out,
poked, and prodded,
And the only thing left lying,
is an empty
I am so sorry Ming.
Please forgive me,
I love you.
Sometimes this grief feels like standing on the edge of a cliff, warm sun on strong back,
and a breathless fall to earth,
then the quick plunge down to the depths,
with burning lungs,
great weight upon your back
But then just as you think all is lost,
you turn your head, and kick,
your head breaks the surface,
and you float on your back,
You feel your belly warmed by the sun,
and a gentle rocking,
Thank you for listening,