Summer Camp: Touchstones

Private journal of CT

onezero Bough has arrived early to camp, too. This was my doing. Since Penelope was here early, I thought it would be nice for the two girls to have a chance to get to know each other before the other campers arrived. This way, they could talk about their experiences of being not-entirely-from-around-here before the other kids came, so that when the others came, they could all enjoy being kids together, without focusing on differences. So I used my fairy godmother powers and downloaded onezero a day early.

I stayed in the background and watched while she ran out to the park where Penelope was playing.

“Hey, my sister-from-another-hard-drive!” onezero exclaimed. “I see the great continuity of being has brought us to be in the same space at the same time!”

It is funny to hear her say such complicated statements in her high and squeaky voice.


“You have blue skin, too,” said Penelope, “only yours has turquoise in it! I wonder what gene causes that, and do you think the turquoise is recessive?”

They talked a bit about their variations in form, and Penelope asked onezero why she wore her support suit.

“I need a little help sometimes,” onezero said, “with breathing and to support my muscoloskeletal system. So when I am having trouble with this atmosphere, the suit makes me feel better.”

“I wear mine at night sometimes,” Penelope said.


Many of the neighborhood kids were playing at the park, and onezero, who developed the habit of making friends while achieving the Social Butterfly aspiration, was quick to introduce herself to Maeve.

Maeve fumed at meeting someone of alien descent. I kept a sharp lookout, in case the kids needed a peace-keeper.


But Penelope, who’s had her own experiences with other kids’ speciesism, was quick to diffuse the situation.

“Do you know that genes are really amazing things?” she said. “It’s just one little gene that makes me silvery-blue. And one little gene makes zeroone turquoise-blue. And if we had the right type of  mechanical contraption, we could get a gene sample from you to see what gives you red hair and pink skin. I like red. It’s a pretty color.”


“And genes are made of energy, actually,” said onezero, “so when we look through to their ultimate composition, we find that it is simply a variation of the exact same substance that is at the core of all of us. More same than different, right, Pen?”


“I DON’T KNOW WHAT YOU’RE TALKING ABOUT!” yelled Maeve. “You’re blue! Both of you!”


And for some reason, onezero and Penelope found that to be the most hilarious thing they had every heard.


“Sister!” said onezero.

They were still in hysterics when Maeve stormed off the playground.


onezero was filled with joy and freedom and unbounded happiness. Is it kinship, I wondered, or is it having someone with whom she can share this feeling of uniqueness and commonality?


“I’m so glad I found you,” she said.

“We’re like Mendel’s peas,” said Penelope, “silvery-blue and turquoise-blue, rather than yellow and green, but peas all the same!”


“Two peas in a pod!” shouted onezero.


At supper, the two pea-pod twins separated, so they could each enjoy one-on-one time with each of us. onezero joined Joel, and he told me later that she talked mostly of her favorite subject: Wittgenstein.

“I would tell you all about his propositions,” she told Joel, “but I feel you know it already, and, really, we need not talk about what we already know, especially when what we know is that which cannot be talked about!”


“So if we can’t talk about it,” she continued, “we might as well eat it, right?”

Joel was enjoying his last bite of Caprese salad, and he never talks with his mouthful.

“I knew you were wise,” onezero said.


Inside, Penelope was delighting me with tales of young Mendel.

“He failed his oral exam,” she said, “not once, but twice! Which just shows how over-rated talking is, don’t you think?”

“Indeed!” I said. “Plus, it points to the absurdity of certain requirements! And that failure, it opened up a little more time for his true work, don’t you feel?”


“Failure is a funny word for something that can turn out to be just what we needed, don’t you think?” asked Penelope. “I was upset at school when it failed to let me learn, but then my dad showed me I could learn at home, and so when I started doing that, it was as if I had been given a gift at school because it opened up an incentive for me to learn at home. Plus, it gave my dad an opportunity to be kind and wise, and that’s what fathers are for.”

I felt something indescribable listening to Penelope–it was this funny mixture of joy and freedom and unbounded happiness! Why, I think this is what onezero felt when she flew down the slide!

Penelope brings joy.


We danced in the moonlight, the five of us: Joel, Penelope, onezero, Royal Blue Dino, and me.


“What do you think of dancing with two royal princesses and a royal queen?” Joel asked Dino.

“In the moonlight, they look magical,” he replied.


Penelope took Joel inside to talk about genetics while they washed the dishes.

While onezero and I danced, something magical happened.

My thoughts stopped.

I felt inside a buzz of energy coursing through me.

It was connected to the music, the night air, the space beyond, the thousand stars.

It was what I felt inside of onezero, and I knew that we felt, inside of both of us, the same thing: we felt one.


It is something to feel energy inside of you.

It is something to feel connected to the music, the night air.

It is something to feel that the oneness inside of you is the same as the oneness inside of another.

And it was something to feel one with two.


The girls wanted a bedtime story, and I think I knew just the one: Plant dispersion, pollination and gene flow in Viola by A. J. Beattie.

When I brought the book out to them, I found them with eyes closed, listening. We waited for a few moments until they were ready to hear the story, and in those moments of silence, I, too, was listening.


“Pollinator flight distances,” I read, “were directly proportional to spacing parameters while the frequency of interplant flights and percent pollination were inversely proportional to spacing parameters.”

Penelope hung on every word.


“Is it the pattern that corresponds to the ‘Shifting Balance’ view of evolution?” she asked.

And indeed, it was!


“Chasmogamaous flowers may be important,” I continued reading, “both in promoting within-colony gene exchange and long distance between-colony gene exchange.”


When we finished the article, we felt amazed at the patterns that emerge from seeming random events, such as the scattering of pollen across the wind.

Penelope smiled in her sleep, dreaming perhaps, of the chain of seeming random events which brought her here, to this cot beneath the starry sky on a hard-drive far from one home, yet smack in the middle of another.


onezero couldn’t sleep.

“I’m too happy!” she said. “It’s like they say, in all the fairy tales! Fairy godmothers really are real!”

“And,” said I, “it’s like what all the fairy godmothers read in their stories! Fairy godchildren really are real!”

“Or maybe,” said my fairy godchild,”we are really both make-believe.”


“Make-believe for reals,” I said. “Good-night, dear two.”

“Good-night, one,” said she.