A Leaf of Grass

A Great Story Parable

by Connie Barlow

"A leaf of grass is no less than the journey-work of the stars."

Those are my words. Those words spilled out of me a hundred and fifty years ago. They sing The Song of Myself. Drawn from large and melodious thoughts, such words descend upon me whenever I walk or rest beneath the trees.

O, camerado! Hear me now! This hour I tell things in confidence. I might not tell everybody, but I will tell you. I tell you that ...

"A leaf of grass is no less than the journey-work of the stars."

This Song conceived in the open air descended upon me, as if it were not myself shaping each verse. As if it were, instead, my Great Self, the Universe, singing its immense journey — the same Self who lifts the hammer of a blacksmith, palm covering a continent. The same Self who lifts the lid of a laptop computer to celebrate the shared story of grass and star, to celebrate my Great Story now, on a rocky platform where two creeks converge, a canopy of beech leaves dancing overhead, dropping large and melodious thoughts.

It is I, Walt Whitman, who watches over the shoulder of the laptop lifter now. It is I, Kosmos, who watches over her shoulder in delight. I urge my smaller self on. These are my fingers tapping the keys.

I am with you, too, Robust Reader, Noble Listener. Whoever you are taking in these words: know that I am with you in delight. My hand delicately turns the page. My smile becomes your own. It is my voice that meshes and rides with the voice, high or low, husky or quivering, of the one who stands before you now. It is my voice that echoes in the limestone chambers of your skull. Call that voice what you will — Divine Muse, God, Gaia, Life Force, Cosmic Creativity. I am Walt Whitman, Kosmos! And I know my voice has been thirteen billion years in the making. For it the nebula cohered to an orb; vast vegetables gave it sustenance, and are giving it sustenance still.

Hurrah for science! Long live exact demonstration! Now I know the amplitude of time. "A leaf of grass is no less than the journey-work of the stars."

I salute you, Astronomers! I salute you for singing your proud verse of the Great Story.

I salute you, Physicists! Know that it was I who was with you, formulating the equations of atomic transformation in the depths of stars. It was I who gasped. It was I whose heart skipped a beat when you came to know that you were the first of all humans, the first of all Earth kin, to open deep time, to proclaim that the stuff of limestone, skull, heart, paper, hammer, ink, leaves of beech or grass — that all these and more had been a very long time in the making.

No! The minerals of planets and life had not belonged to the galaxy from the beginning. No! It was hydrogen that brought forth helium, helium that brought forth carbon, then carbon into oxygen, oxygen into silicon, silicon into calcium, and calcium into anvils of iron. All this within the sizzling belly of a star.

In the final moments, the stellar blacksmith pounded iron into silver, silver into copper, copper into gold. And then, in a burst of deathbed generosity, the exploding star seeded the galaxy with all that would be needed five billion years hence to forge the most wondrous journey-work of all: a leaf of grass, and no less the one who celebrates the leaf of grass.

"A leaf of grass is no less than the journey-work of the stars."

Camerado! You, Camerado, here and now! Will you waken to these words in this time? Will you celebrate the Great Song that links skull and stone, star and bone?

Camerado! The Earth expanding right hand and left hand. The picture alive, every part in its best light. I give you my hand. Will you come travel with me? Will you run with me through the meadows, dance upon the green, singing praises to the journey-work of the stars?


Note: The equations of atomic transformation, of stellar nucleosynthesis, were first developed in 1957 and published in a paper in Science journal by Burbridge, Burbridge, Fowler, and Hoyle.

TO LEARN THE UNDERLYING SCIENCE and contemplate the MEANING of how the atoms within us are the journey-work of the stars, click here.


CONNIE BARLOW is a science writer and author of The Ghosts of Evolution, Green Space Green Time, and Evolution Extended.

Home  |  About The Great Story  |  About Us  |  Traveling Ministry and Events
What Others Say  | 
Programs and Presentations  |  Audios and Videos  |  Our Writings
Great Story Beads  | 
Testimonials  |  Parables  |  Sacred Sites
Favorite Links & Resources  |  Join Us!