Strength and death: tumbleweeds


(part of the Epilogue to the book “About Strength and Death”)

And here we reach the end of this journey across the unknown, through the passages of terror, through doubts, hesitations, courage and acceptance.

The most important one is to accept who we are, even more than accept that the world is what it is.

When I started to correspond with my boyfriend, right in the beginning, no idea why, I signed my e-mail as “Tumbleweed”. Tumbleweeds are plant structures that many desert species have, where a dead part of the plant detaches itself from the bush and starts tumbling with the wind. There are propagules inside it. Therefore, Tumbleweeds are propagation structures to these plant species from inhospitable places. They never grow roots. But they leave their propagules behind as they tumble, disseminating the species.

Tumbleweeds are a metaphor for those who lack roots and have no capacity to grow them: the macroscopic and visible parts are dead and can only tumble through the world.

That’s how I always saw myself. I was harshly criticized by everyone in the academic places I’ve been for not following a linear career. From the depths of academic hypocrisy, they criticized me for not conforming to what was celebrated as lip service: trans, cross and inter-disciplinarity. Honestly, it is far from acceptable to them. More than one department rejected me for this reason: “you are untrustworthy. You never stop anywhere and you blend in perfectly, mimicking with erudition the scientific discourse of any discipline.”

So I kept tumbling through life, through scientific disciplines, through relationships I never understood, through false ideologies, that catapulted me even further with their fakeness.

At each serious fall, there followed a period of profound sense of freedom. That is the freedom that comes from the great losses. A recurrent dream, the only good dream I had in life, visited me at night: at the edge of a cliff in a red sand canyon, with a few people around, I jumped into nothingness. Instead of falling, I soared through the sky, over the most beautiful landscape I have ever seen. I always thought it was the Grand Canyon, which I actually flew over.

It was then that I met this guy who I sent the e-mails signed as Tumbleweed. One day, he told me he was Navajo and knew the desert. Unlike me, he saw many tumbleweeds in his life. And he showed me pictures of Canyon De Chelly, in Arizona. I found a picture that is exactly the place, in my dreams, where I jumped to fly.

Sometimes I look at pictures on the internet. I found a few nomad houses built in the middle of a wild landscape at the desert, in Arizona, full of cacti and catacea around it. I sent it to him.

“Maybe that’s where the Tumbleweeds rest”, he said.

There is a deep truth in this. Tumbleweeds don’t grow roots – ever. Today I am in peace knowing that I tumbled a lot, I tumbled from project to project, but all of them, strictly all, were started, developed and concluded. I never left anything unfinished. I left my propagules through biochemistry, through ecology, through sociology of science and through political science. And tumbled ahead. The only way to relate to a tumbleweed is understand she can’t and won’t grow roots – she doesn’t have the means to.

But she may find less windy places to rest. Roll a little bit and stay there.

Bipolars and its similars will never cease to be what they are. It is something we are born with and it is forever. And if it is forever, it is not a problem any longer, since it has no solution: it has management.

I found a quiet place to park for a while. Roll around a little bit. Spread propagules. Enjoy these and the rest of the propagules I will keep throwing around. And keep close to me only those capable of understanding the strange and unpredictable road of Tumbleweeds.


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