This story is from the book The Earth Path by Starhawk. I think it's an important and enlightening story for us all to read as we study the Air element. It gives a very life-affirming understanding of Air and it's role in life on this planet... and the other elements as well. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do, and I hope it will help open your heart and spirit to what the Element of Air really represents to us. It is Life; past, present, and future. We are breathing the Gift of our Ancestors!
The Gift of The Ancestors
by Starhawk, The Earth Path
Life on earth was still relatively new. At first, simple, one celled beings filled the seas, living by changing the energy patterns around them, breaking down large molecules - complex clumps of dancing energy and form - into smaller clumps, using the energy released to move and dance. They filled the seas in promiscuous abundance, constantly exchanging bits of DNA, sidling up to one another and crooning the bacterial equivalent of "Hey, hey, hey baby - the thought of trading genes with you makes me cr-crazy!" They formed one life-whole, one global gene pool, one planetary well of information and experimentation.
But after a time, life reached a crisis point. Life began to run out of food. There weren't enough of these complex molecules for all of life to continue, and life began to starve and die.
Yet life has always been inventive and creative. Those simple, one-celled beings were already experimenting with different forms. Some were long and skinny and wriggled and swam. Some were round and fat. Some adapted to hot and some to cold. And always they were trading genes, shifting forms, changing and transforming. At that time, there wasn't yet a brain on the planet, yet life came up with something so brilliant, so amazing, that it transformed the whole nature of existence and the atmosphere itself.
Life invented a mandala. A beautiful molecule, like a patterned flower, with a magic quality. For when a photon of sunlight struck the heart of this pattern, it began to vibrate and shiver and set off a chain of reactions that harvested the sun's energy to turn carbon dioxide and water into food. Chlorophyll and the process of photosynthesis were life's next great invention, and the green things, the sunlight harvesters were born.
Green things filled the seas and the crevices of the shores, flung a smear of filmy life over rock and sand. Life flourished as never before.
But there was one problem. The miraculous process that used sunlight to make food gave off a waste product, a toxic gas that burned and destroyed everything it touched. And as life grew, over hundreds of millions, and then billions of years, the very air became polluted by this gas, so that life could no longer avoid it's touch of death.
But life continued to experiment and invent. Some of tiny creatures dug down in the mud to avoid the toxic gas. Some clumped together for protection.
And some discovered another miracle, that by reversing one of the moves in the dance of photosynthesis, a new process could be born - one that could take the toxic gas, which we call oxygen, and use it to burn food and make energy.
And so the breathers were born, those who dine on the sunlight-harvesters, burning their bodies as fuel for life. In burning food, the breathers give off carbon-dioxide, which the green things (with help from the sun) transform to food again. And the green things give off oxygen, which the breathers again use in burning food. Gaia began to breathe, passing her breath back and forth from red to green, continuing to build up oxygen, to transform herself.
And after millions of years, the breathers took the mandala of the chlorophyll. switched the atom at it's heart to iron, and formed the hemoglobin that swims in the cells of our red blood.
And so the cycle is complete, and the earth breathes in and out, red to green to red.
And this air we breathe is a gift of the early ancestors. With each breath in, we take in the results of their great creativity. With each breath out, we give back.
And the balance is so perfectly kept that oxygen remains at just the right level to sustain life. For if there were only a few more percentage points of oxygen in the air, any spark would light a fire that would ignite the whole atmosphere. And if there were only a few percentage points less, no fire would ever burn and we could not live."
Take some time to read this story to yourself slowly. You may even ask someone to read it out loud to you so you can close your eyes and use it as a guided meditation. Breathe in and out slowly and evenly. Contemplate the miracle of the exchange of oxygen and carbon-dioxide. Think about how your ancestors many years ago, breathed in oxygen, and created carbon-dioxide which then fed the plants and trees. Those plants and trees became a part of your breathing ancestor by taking in the carbon-dioxide they created. Those plants then created oxygen, which your ancestors' children breathed in. And the cycle continued, and even now, every breath you take, contains a particle that has at some point passed through every one of your ancestors, every breathing life form, and every green, light-eating thing alike. You are breathing the history of this planet.