My toenails are soggy in my vernal-mud-encrusted Mizuno trail runners. My feet are planted upon blades of dew-spritzed weeds on a slope that is covered in frolicking labradoodles and plymouth rock hens and a giggling toddler on a trike. This is a New England apple orchard: not a grove of ruler-straight, dizzyingly parallel rows of Kern County almonds—the imagery I have come to associate with “orchard.” It is a variegated wonderland of spring smells mingled with phantoms and figments of autumnal warmth— sweet, dusty cider donuts and sparkling cider and apple-pickin’ flannels—which has receded like high tide, but is also incipient. The pollen on my fingertips could be cinnamon-sugary-fairy donut dust in a few months’ time, in apple season. But for now, it is pollen. For now, it is spring. If only bone marrow or hearts or brains or lives were like apple trees. Malleable. Twistable. Braidable. Amenable to union with a healthy version. I know the slope of this apple orchard. The wet grass and the baby violet verbena blossoms and the soft, cold mud. The gradient has been under my toenails before. But, it hasn’t. Perhaps I am mistaking familiarity with an intangible aura for familiarity with a tangible slope.
It is an aura. Or maybe, an era. When I was thirteen, my family terminated our lease on a single-family home in Monterey, California, and moved in with a family friend, Gabriel, in the rural abode of a horse and chicken farm in Prunedale. I remember the smell of oak trees in the morning and the taste of fresh huevos rancheros. Of mud-scraped knees and overextended badminton muscles. For three months, a slope with dew-spritzed weeds and plymouth rock hens and Arabian horses was home. On this apple orchard in this miniature town in southern New Hampshire, I feel an aura that I once knew. The orchard may not have Arabian horses, but it has a feel. I remember a home that I entirely forgot I had. I grin.
My classmates and I nibble on gooey coconut and read poetry in a barn. I sense that we are not the only souls under these creaky pillars; I hear the cacophony of laughter, taste the saltiness of tears, and feel the warmth of a million awkward hugs from vaguely known third-aunts —diffuse sensations spanned across generations behind me, concentrated like d-hall fruit punch in this moment and place in space. It is an aura. An aura of convergence. Of closeness. I close my eyes for just a moment. I know this aura. At Gabriel’s horse-farm, there was was a small fire-pit where we would converge on warm inland-California nights in the late spring. Gabriel would play his guitar and I, who at the time thought I was a fledgling Hannah Montana, would test my voice:
Ay, ay, ay, ay, canta y no llores
Porque cantando se alegran
Cielito lindo los corazones
This was our poetry. In the glow of the bonfire, we would devour corn chips and Gabriel’s famous guacamole in a treasured molcajete— a stone mortar and pestle—which harbored some timeless secret ingredient in its mineral crevices. The guacamole was salty, but tangy with the juice of lima, lime. Some days—after a triumph in badminton or a long hike—the tanginess was tinged with sweetness. Other days, the tanginess was tinged with sorrow. Or jubilation. Or relief. The tanginess of a lime is in the tastebuds of the beholder. This is a lesson I learned in the chartreuse glow of a bonfire amid the mingled aroma of decaying oak leaves and hay.
A transposon is a bite-sized chunk of DNA that frolics around like labradoodles in an organism’s genome, courting the adenines and cytosines and thymines and guanines until it finds a new niche or a vacation spot. An enzyme, transposase, extracts the transposon from its original locale and sutures it into a new dwelling. As I stand on these blades of dew-spritzed grass on this story-book slope in this story-book wonderland, I suddenly know something I have never before known. I have been transposed. I can feel the cool clench of transposase in the cracks of my soggy toenails. I am a transposon. I have been transposed. From a Prunedale horse-farm to a New England apple orchard. From a bonfire to a barn. From an aura to an aura. I have been transposed.