SHOAL SANCTUARY
"What If" Stories
WHAT IF… FIRE is a living entity? Glaring evidence of its life from birth to death is often overlooked even by learned scholars, visionary scientists, and insightful gurus. Fire is enslaved as a convenient tool with caution that it becomes a dangerous chemical change if it gets out of hand. Resistant to belief in a life so heatedly different from our own, we are blinked to the possibility that fire is a substantive being. Acceptance of fire as a living, breathing spirit invites thoughtful respect for fellow inhabitants of our planet.

Fire possesses the key features of life. Dormant until the right circumstances arise, when vital elements come together- heat, fuel, and oxygen- fire is born anew. It breathes oxygen. It consumes food in the form of whatever sustenance lies in its path. It excretes the charred remains of its meal. So long as it can access the three nurturing ingredients, fire goes forth to reproduce and multiple at a remarkable rate. Its metabolism is incredibly high by human standards. It emits alarming heat as it devours its host with veracious zeal. Its life continues so long as there is an endless supply of resources. Like any ravenous lifestyle, its gluttony is inevitably self-defeating. Eating its host or sucking up all available air, eventually it burns itself out.

Although fire may not be sentient in any of the sensory manners enjoyed by humankind, it does have features that suggest a presence. Gazing spellbound into its flickering aura, perhaps we enter into some primitive form of communication with the flames, an ancient dialogue at a subconscious level, long forgotten or not yet understood. Fire dances in flaming glory. It peers at the world through glowing embers until, for lack of nourishment, ashes to ashes it dies.

In our burning desire to understand life’s meaning, let us honor fire. The energy that fire emits, we use to warm our hands, toast our marshmallows, heat our households, boil our water, and bake our daily bread. May we value its warmth, not selfishly for what we gain from the relationship, but for fire’s intrinsic worth as well. May appreciation for the life of fire spread beyond the confines of what we know to all the world. May reverence be unwavering for every imaginable wonder, and more.



Maybe fireants are spicy food for anteaters, like Mexican food is for people. And when they eat the ants maybe they exclaim, “Ay, caramba!” and “Ay, chiguaja!”




What if ALL species think themselves superior to everyone else.

Perhaps pigeons regard people with aloof distain for our sorrowful existence.

Maybe caterpillars pity us for our seemingly meaningless struggles.

And ants think we’re big, awkward oafs, clumsily stomping their kin.




Sharpening the hatchet

What if each gossamer line of red at a turkey's throat
revealed the story of time, beginning to end?
American bagua
Barnyard tarot, fleshy revelations spilling beneath
sharp beaks, the labial gates of life
or an unending disembowelment in crimson flesh.

The humble cock has his comb, the dog
jowls, humans have ascots and hubris
while the turkey stands large with his
omnipotent waddle
guarding his secrets as he wardens his hens.

Are there gods, young bird?
Zeus, Demeter, and Ra molding
your flesh with their fingers, laughing
at our clumsy ignorance, the way
we brutishly bump about, slice
through their words in your throat
and call it Thanksgiving,

spread silly legends of your brothers drowning
in the rain. "Too stupid," we say,
"To stop watching the sky"
when it's falling, your gelatin eyes
staring up at Persephone in summer,
Anubis, and Orpheo. While we choke
out vulgar laughter, a million years
transpire between you.




What if… 100

Imagine how much easier life would be if all numerical systems were based on 100, like the U.S. dollar and the metric system.

A full circle would be 100o, not 360 o. Right angels would be a neat 25o and diameters would be 50 o.

Clocks could have 100 minutes in an hour. Sixty minute hours are based on an arbitrary number that makes no sense. “Half past” would be a neat 50 minutes after the hour.

A 10 hour day would simplify matters. And, in my life since a new day begins at dawn, I’d like clocks began each day at dawn. Dawn varies no more or less than high noon and it would break the days into a more orderly fashion. The time now designated as 5:01 am, approximately dawn, would become 00:01 am. Nighttime would no longer needlessly staggers 2 days. The “wee hours” of the night would become the highest numbers on the clock. No sense in clocks going around twice in one day either. The 10 hour day would be like “military time” but with 10 hours, not 24. That would allow more flexibility of schedule since we would have more time before being declared “late.”

Months are logically based on lunar phases, but why 12 months to a year? A ten month year would work fine. And, while we are at it, why not begin each year on the first day of Spring. That way, winters would not always stagger two years. Does “Winter 2000” refer to the Winter at the dawn of the millennium or the one just before 2001 began? As calendar years stand now, the correct answer is both.