Trees in my yard are still piled round with snow from the year’s record snowfalls. A fruit tree first had snow piled well above where branches spread out from the trunk. Snow-line above my head. Then days of wan sun, days of tepid melting, and life force becomes part of the act. Celestial sun melts snow from the flanks of the pile — but sap rising in the tree also melts snow packed against the trunk. A snowbank with a doughnut hole.
Life, which we still so little understand, generates warmth. Generates. Because trees trap celestial sun and knit it into living cells that busy themselves in organic processes. When you rub your hands together you get warmth. A living tree harbors a million simultaneous activities, chemical, mechanical, electric — and those traveling cells, dividing cells, porous then impermeable cells, fending-off-intruder cells act as a billion pairs of rubbing hands. Heat that melts the snow.
Life emerged into a universe that had done fine without it for billions of years. Matter up to then had been acted upon but had never been an actor. Yet life acts. Creates. Pushes onward. The urgent spread of living forms — pansies, turtles, grasshoppers, kelp — suggests that life force isn’t ultimately focused on the shape of a donkey’s ears but on keeping life force itself from ever being stopped. To self-replicate self-replicate self-replicate and never get snuffed out.
We don’t have scientific language for this yet but life force seems to bestow willfulness unto aggregates of atoms. Life seems to include the imperative, keep living, that mere elements such as boron do not show.