Words and photos by Mark Renz

Sharing a meal

Red-rimmed melania (scientifically known as Melanoides tuberculata), with a second smaller
snail, both probably feeding on algae. Adult females will carry up to 70 young algae munchers-to-be in a brood pouch attached to the head.
Melania young are released from the pouch at 1-2 mm in length. There are 25.4mm in one inch.
Her role as a mother-to-be is both both parthenogenic and ovoviparous. Parthenogenic is a form of
asexual reproduction where growth and development of embryos occur without fertilization.
Ovoviviparous animals are similar to viviparous species in that there is internal fertilization
and the young are born live, but differ in that there is no placental connection
and the unborn young are nourished by egg yolk. Source: Wikipedia.

Red-rimmed melania

Red-rimmed melania

Enjoy it while you can

Enjoy it while you can
said the man about life
For weeks, I had been pondering his words
Enjoy it while you can

Then, while walking the shoreline
at Harns Marsh here in Lehigh Acres
My dog Darwin and I
stumbled onto tens of thousands
of empty snail shells
piled one on top of the other
Two days earlier, heavy rains
pounded the marsh
The waters rose fast
The snails crowded
the shoreline
just under the water's surface
feeding, breeding
enjoying it while they can

Forty-eight hours later
the water level dropped
as fast as it had risen
stranding the snails
above the water line
where their gills were unable to breathe
Their vessels now empty
or rotting away in the hot mid-day sun
producing a strange odor
when I knelt and nearly touched them with my nose

With Darwin watching
I captured the moment
holding a human contraption
called a camera

When I pulled the camera back far enough
I wondered if the shells might be us
While alive, our bodies are containers
or vessels for storage and movement
holding only enough energy to get through a human day
and on through a human lifetime

But we are also that energy
bundled collectively in tiny packages
trillions upon trillions
of sub-atomic particles and atoms
that change like chameleons
and bond with each other to form
molecules and cells
blood and skin tissue
legs and arms
ears and eyes
and a brain
that sometimes doesn't work

Near as we can observe
our containers
don't contain for long
Our vessels will only move
for a short while
before wearing out

But that energy
those tiny atoms and sub-atomic particles
that we can't see
was circulating throughout
the Cosmos
for an eternity
before we ever knew
what a human was
And near as we can tell
they will exist in various forms
endlessly from here on

This isn't what I believe
It's what the bulk of evidence reveals
It isn't faith
It's a theory full of facts
that strung together
make the most sense – for now

Sugarcoat it with images of pearly gates
and golden mansions
with all of our families and pets
reunited together in the end
But that doesn't make it so

A reuniting of families?
Yes, in the sense that we may
link up with lots of atoms
we have bonded with before
Old friends
Really old

This news needn't be depressing
There is beauty in the process
Joy in feeling lucky enough
to understand a little
of what we are witnessing

Perhaps we'll find there is
an intelligence
directing such minute energy

We don't really know, do we?

But if there is no director
So be it
I am going to give it my all
for as long as I breathe
I am going to strive to be happy
and responsible with my container
and with how I interact with all
the other vessels of energy
that surround me

I so want life to mean something profound
beyond my brief stay here
I want to live forever – vibrantly
But it may all be meaningless
for our containers, or vessels
It may be that life is nothing more
than simple energy struggling to survive

And if there is an intelligence
it may be temporary in vessels like ours
or superior to ours on other worlds
or perhaps here
groups of energy
that have figured it all out
And perhaps they manipulate
that energy for their own purposes
and have developed
the “best” or “fittest” way to survive
to get through “Big Bangs”
and wormholes and other dimensions

Or maybe atoms
and sub-atomic particles
harbor the real intelligence
and form super packs
of molecules and cells
to get the job done

Maybe Ying and Yang
good and bad
and the large gray area between
are the result of billions or trillions of years
of trial and error
Maybe the best and worst
we see in ourselves
is just a microcosm of universal principles
of what we could expect to see everywhere

Maybe the joys and sorrow
we experience as humans
are obsolete or unnecessary
in individual atoms or smaller particles
Maybe they have evolved beyond such
human frailties
or venture into feelings at will
by bonding with each other
and forming containers and vessels
that say in passing
Enjoy it while you can