21 February 2006

Back and fill on the Tree of Life

i just looked up
'back and fill'
and it doesn't officially mean
how i'm using it

to back off a bit for perspective
and fill in some places you missed

which is so apt
it deserves to be right

so yesterday the science-news sites
reminded me of the biologists'
Tree of Life website/project

which treats the same
from a much more fragmented perspective
by ignoring

and so ignoring

lifepaths tracing
life's characters

instead using the spatial dimension
to separate species
that are in fact infinitely intermingled

so i want to cultivate a habit
of selectively illuminating
sub-branches on the Tree

whether at the level of
family trees
or species
or whole phyla

you light up an individual's branch
or a cluster of individuals' branches

and propagate the lightbeam
to all their descendants
or the opposite way
to all their direct ancestors

perhaps encompassing the blurred bounds
of the species as a whole

perhaps assigning one color
to a predator species
and another
to each species of its prey

and we might also invert the Tree
to animate the dimensions
of geographical spread

unicellular life
gradually occupying every
oceanic coastline

human life filling africa
then spilling into south asia
and finally discovering
a leaky passage to the americas

no species
colonising both
water and land

so the species-subbranch
leaves vast gaps
in spacetime

the pacific ocean, say
with occasional adventurers
rafting out into nothingness
their branches terminating