Your body is an ancestor. Your body is an altar to your ancestors. Every one of your cells holds an ancient and anarchic love story. Around 2.7 billion years ago free-living prokaryotes melted into one another to form the mitochondria and organelles of the cells that build our bodies today. All you need to do to honor your ancestors is to roll up like a pill bug, into the innate shape of safety: the fetal position. The curl of your body, then, is an altar not just to the womb that grew you, but to the retroviruses that, 200 million years ago taught mammals how to develop the protein syncytin that creates the synctrophoblast layer of the placenta. Breathe in, slowly, knowing that your breath loops you into the biome of your ecosystem. Every seven to ten years your cells will have turned over, rearticulated by your inhales and exhales, your appetites and proclivity for certain flavors. If you live in a valley, chances are the ancient glacial moraine, the fossils crushed underfoot, the spores from grandmotherly honey fungi, have all entered into and rebuilt the very molecular make up of your bones, your lungs, and even your eyes. Even your lungfuls of exhaust churn you into an ancestor altar for Mesozoic ferns pressurized into the fossil fuels. You are threaded through with fossils. Your microbiome is an ode to bacterial legacies you would not be able to trace with birth certificates and blood lineages. You are the ongoing-ness of the dead. The alembic where they are given breath again. Every decision, every idea, every poem you breathe and live is a resurrection of elements that date back to the birth of this universe itself.

Today I realize that due to the miracle of metabolic recycling, it is even possible that my body, somehow, holds the cells of my great-great grandmother. Or your great-great grandmother. Or that I am built from carbon that once intimately orchestrated the flight of a hummingbird or a pterodactyl. Your body is an ecosystem of ancestors. An outcome born not of a single human thread, but a web of relations that ripples outwards into the intimate ocean of deep time.

Your Body is an Ancestor, Sophie Strand

"Your Body is an Ancestor" by Sophie St…