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What Was Scattered Gathers: Clusters of Nature and Thought

What was scattered gathers

What was gathered blows away

— Heraclitus

With every half-circle stroke, it feels like I’m swimming through a trough of worms. The aptly named peanut bunker — swirling in a clockwise direction in the shallow bay — probably number in the hundreds of thousands. By the time I spot dozens of seagulls heading for the cluster of finger-length fish, the multitudes of streamlined terns have already begun diving headlong into the water, so close to me, I can feel the tips of tail feathers on my cheek. Not a single one of the terns strike me directly, even though I happen to be swimming through the churning feast of peanut bunker, the frantic fish swirling like a subaqueous waterwheel, turning Time on its side after having drowned it. By the time I swim through the feeding frenzy, the cormorants and egrets have joined and the birds number in the hundreds, if not above a thousand. This is a sight that’s by no means rare where I live, especially when the water cools, but it was the first time I was ‘in’ the frenzy. I felt the desperation of the fish along my fingers, through the soft thumps on my wetsuit and I could hear the clicking of thousands of beaks, like a a forest full of crickets had given up their stringed instruments and started to play with sticks.

Harmony is the strength of binding opposites

— Heraclitus

From the primordial marble-sized mass that went BANG!, resulting in all This, to the cluster of peanut bunker in the bay, things that were scattered will gather, what was gathered, blows apart. The same goes for thoughts. Like water spewing from a spring at the top of a mountain and falling like rain from the precipices, all that water will gather in pools and streams, making its way down, down until some of that water returns to the sea and the earth at the base of that mountain. Some humans choose solitude, while others flock to major cities, like terns and seagulls do when they see the swarm of bunker, or the egrets and cormorants will when they the other birds from afar. Thoughts that lead to creation gather when they gather, no amount of force will make them do so, even though it takes consistent force to ensure they have a chance to gather. Only minutes before that feeding frenzy took place, I was swimming through crystalline water, the kind of water that never exists in Summer, seemingly devoid of life…until the life from the not-too-distant ocean arrives, in numbers and kinds beyond counting. Up until then, the terns were roosting in the eel grass on a little island ahead, the seagulls drifting on the thermals of a mild afternoon, the egrets and cormorants, alone, until they were beckoned by the tell-tale signs of their avian kin. I was merely a witness.

Whoever cannot seek the unforeseen sees nothing

For the known way is an impasse

— Heraclitus

The birds frenzy because they know where to linger, just as the peanut bunker know to remain in tight formation as they are picked apart, since the whole often fares better united. Gathering comes at a cost, just as scattering, so runs the timeless law of nothing vast without a curse. To live alone and removed hold its virtues and its difficulties. A life in a city like New York can inspire as surely as it crushes. Thoughts coalesce into creation, in dreams or on the toilet, hardly the moments films have portrayed with a beam of crepuscular light on the painter at her easel, or the writer with a pipe in his mouth, typing away with an obedient dog at his feet. These moments seem nice, but creation is messy, especially when a cataclysmic gathering of thoughts turn into a frenzy inside a person’s head. Life is messy. Just like I sensed the multitudes of bunker thumping my wet suit, I couldn’t feel them, not beyond my hands. So runs the life of the mind, nobody feels it for you, when all those scattered thoughts are coming together and distracting threats are striking at you from above. Just like I did in the bay, others tend to do the reasonable thing…they swim on by and leave the mess alone.

Hayden Moore

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