"Early Migrations" from the conclusion to Part II. Early Migrations
Continental plates, creatures of water, birds of the air, humans and animals of the land… All are on the move, though at different rates and rhythms. The movements develop patterns, intimately tied to the days and the seasons of the sun and the moon, guided by the regular movement of stars across the skies. One thinks of wandering and roaming as an empty, mindless activity but that does not seem to be the case. It is my own sense that these millions of years of life on the planet were developing an intimacy in which every living thing and all that surrounded it were affecting one another, collectively acting and being acted upon, honing and shaping and tending one another. Without this intimacy such migrations would not have been possible or successful.
I remember sitting on a hillside in Baja California looking out over the sea. A large flock of egrets landed, some very near me and others a distance away. I watched them for a while and then, quite suddenly—as if someone had blown a whistle to announce their departure—they lifted up as one and flew off. The amazing thing was that the egrets near me were facing the opposite direction from the egrets much farther away yet their lift-off was perfectly synchronized. The aerial ballet of starlings and other birds show this same graceful synchrony. It suggests that before humans, all of nature functioned like a single wave of consciousness. As the 18th century philosopher Bishop Berkeley might have put it, all held in the Mind of God.
While land and creatures are on the move through millions of years, some things are solidifying. Cells grow into organisms, organisms into colonies; families grow into clans, clans into communities, cities, civilizations. Thought, too, is coalescing among larger and larger groups of people. Augustine’s Christianity, seeded in North Africa, matures in Roman Italy, returns to Africa and becomes a pillar of Western thought for centuries to come. Tariq ibn Ziyad will lead a stream of Islam out of Africa into Spain, where it will have a lasting impact on European culture. The Winnili, like the wildebeests, are looking for greener pastures.
But bear this in mind: All of written history, as far back as our human stories reach, comes into being only in the very last minute of our Earth year. Less than sixty seconds.
It gives one pause. What might the New Year bring?