Tuesday, March 29, 2011


Image from here.
Zoetic. I stumbled upon this word seeking the perfect adjective to describe that sensation when the sun feels like a blanket instead of a stare. Like it did today.

Zoetic. So poetic. The word apparently derives from science, from biology in particular: "pertaining to life."

It's a cell. The "smallest unit of life classified as a living thing" is zoetic. Any type of cell really. Any composition. Like bacteria. Or the soft hair of a newborn. Or the seed hidden, protected and waiting inside the pine tree's cone. It's potential. It's life.

Yet sometimes life, numbed by fatigue, can feel anything but alive.

But today made me pay attention to the zoetic.

Isn't it surprising what makes us feel most alive? It can be something as simple as the much-longed for life-sustaining sunlight on a belated spring day. Or even the opposite.

I think I was nine years old and my heart banged around in my chest like a rabbit trying to escape its cage. That day, along with my cousins and my friend Edwina (who really was my family too), we were fishing at Tobin Lake. Standing on a summer day in still water up to our waists, we weren't going to catch anything there. We were really only pretending. Our parents were on the beach, chatting, relaxing. I think Edwina let go of her fishing rod and started splashing us. We dodged her but remained where we were. Her splashing seemed half-hearted, silly but not really playful. Somehow strange. I remember thinking, she looks drunk like my Uncle Murray does when he wants to dance with my Mom. And then her head went under like being wiped off the counter top. I also remember thinking I should be doing something but what was I supposed to do with my fishing rod? My Dad told me never to let go of my fishing rod. Surfacing, Edwina coughed and laughed and spit and flapped and then I wondered if she had caught a fish. Or if she was becoming a fish? Some woozy mermaid. I turned to look at my parents. No one was coming. I felt blood rush to my head. I looked around. Stricken, my cousin Laurel stared back. Her eyes told me Edwina was drowning. Finally someone yelled and Edwina's father sauntered into the water. I still don't know what took him so long.

A juvenile diabetic, Edwina was having a seizure. The first of many which I would witness several times over the next decade.

And watching her struggle that day, I had never really felt more alive.

Zoetic. Paralyzed and watching near loss of life is oddly zoetic. I understand why now. I think I do. I think fear makes our cells rage. Adrenalin surges. Survival starts throwing punches. And the struggle, our own or others' reminds us to grasp the zoetic. And hold on. And live. Instead of just exist.


Nicole said...

Well done. Very well done. Zoetic. I'll keep that one in my pocket.

Laoch of Chicago said...

Good post.

Chelle said...


Oilfield Trash said...

Great post.

My kid brother also suffered seizures like that as a child. They were scary to say the least.

karensomethingorother said...

Oh, this is a good post. I was feeling the zoetic effect of the sun this morning, as I stood at the school playground with my kids before the bell rang. I have to re-think the constant adrenaline/stress dump my body's been doing for the past year though, and see if it's made me feel more alive, or just plain worn out.

Elly Lou said...

This is my new favorite thing you've written. Yum.

Antares Cryptos said...

Haven't heard it used in this context before. It's a gooooood word. Thank you for the reminder post.

Tom G. said...

Wow. Wonderful post. Nothing makes you feel more alive than fear and heartbreak. I think that it is because in these moments the distractions and noise of existence are pulled aside like a curtain, and we suddenly see life for what it is. We then are purely living in the moment.

dbs said...

@Nicole Thank you.
@LoC Thank you too.
@Chelle See comment to Elly below.
@OT Thanks.
@karen A zoetic moment. I'm going to start posting my zoetic moments. I think it will help me with my dark and worn out times.
@EllyLou Thanks. I reread through your eyes and now I understand it better.
@AC I was wondering about you when I wrote this because I suspected I had the science mixed up (as usual).
@TomG "pulled aside" I really that. Thank you for your comment.

wendy said...

I have NEVER heard of that word. And, I thought this post, and experiences of that day.....were really wonderful.

Antares Cryptos said...

dbs, you thought of me while writing this post? Aaaaaaw. Shtop it.:)

Language evolves and you do it so well. It's like "meme", the internet embraced a new word that Dawkins came up with in "The Selfish Gene", used somewhat differently then he meant, but meme became meme.

Another post idea, I'm never going to catch up. Procrastiknaving again.

Michael said...

I passed this post over in a rush last week. My mistake. I like what's going on here. Beneath the surface so to speak. Anything can make you feel alive, not just the fuzzy-wuzzy stuff. This takes me back to my youth when I watched my dad almost drown. My aunt jumped in to save him as I watched, frozen in fear, and later I ignored the shame that I had done nothing. Until now. My alive cells are deep in my brain. Neurons firing to recreate that memory as if it was yesterday. All the emotions. The smell of the pool water being thrashed by flailing arms.

But this isn't the alive part. The zoetic part (for me) is when I come back to myself in the now and hear the space heater whirring, rub the kink in my neck as I slouch before my computer, and feel my thinking speed up a little as my cup of Three Sisters kicks in.

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