Conception: The first one is clear. An egg and a sperm were the beginning of me, the one who came in winter to a cold, mixed-up world, to Buffalo, to two sisters and two parents and one body, the one I grew into and eventually, slowly, painstakingly earned my right to and learned to inhabit.
But every seven years, I hear, we are new.
I don’t know how many cells make up the human body. But somehow, over the course of seven years, every single one of them dies and is replaced by a new one. I suppose the genes don’t change, though the more my wife reads to me, the more questionable even that assumption becomes.
Everything alters us: What we put into our bodies, food, drinks, chemical sweeteners and three Advil at a time for every migraine, and the things we breathe everyday knowingly or unwittingly, and the hands that touch us, whether by force or by welcome, the words we read and ingest and spit out and recycle, the books we read and the shows we watch and world events and the walks we take through old cemeteries, through cities, exposure to gardens and driveways and traffic and dreams and computer screens and windshields and poems–everything finds it way into the organism that is ever-changing and dying and being remade.
Every seven years, am I reconceived, perhaps more reconciled to reality even as it shifts and shakes and settles again? If this is true, I’m nearing the completion of six cycles of selfhood. This morning, one of my two said, “I do have a sixth sense, you know.” Yes, I do know, I told her.
If the third time’s a charm and the sixth time’s a sense, maybe the seventh cycle is the arrival to the center of some great labyrinth, the one I’ve been walking since before I knew how to walk, the one I’ve been talking to since before I could speak, the one I’ve fought and fallen in love with and, at times, stopped trying to figure out how to speed up or stepped out of completely.
Seven cycles means standing still in the circles that surround me so far. Maybe this is when I turn around and begin a new walk, one step at a time, in the other direction, outward and expanding. Maybe I will come to face you there, as you, too, make your way, whose to say ahead or behind me on this path where lines only curve and contain.
Wherever you go, I shall go. Take me down to the river to pray; take my hand and I’ll grasp it, my cells mingling with your cells, my heart at once distant and in synch with yours, with the downward current that carries us when we let it. All I know for certain on this overcast morning is that my body is changing and yours is, too.
And I’m so glad, so lucky, sad and happy and knowing it’s all mystery and it’s all plain as the day, as the breeze on my skin, as the myth of sin and the magic of merging and apart, sitting here on stone, conceived by love and altered by life, and choosing, something, that is yet to be named.