“The things that make our lives are so tenuous, so unlikely, that we barely come into being, barely meet the people we’re meant to love, barely find our way in the woods, barely survive catastrophe every day. Your origin is due to two people come together, by accident, whether wisely or not, by the attractions of similarity and difference, who survive each other’s fears and limits long enough to create the collision of the two cells from which you spring. A million sperm swim at every egg, and somehow the one that makes the journey all the way begets you in combination with that single maternal cell; the faintest rearrangement of that unthinkable coupling and someone else arrives on earth out of that maze inside your mother; or no one comes into being; or your mother neglects one moment in that terrifying vulnerability that is your first few years and you are snuffed out like a candle, drowned in the bath, choked on a button found on the floor.

Everyone has stories of the small coincidence by which their parents met or their grandmother was saved from fire or their grandfather from the grenade, of the choice made by the most whimsical means that led to everything else, whether you’re blessed or cursed or both. Trace it far enough and this very moment in your life becomes a rare species, the result of a strange evolution, a butterfly that should already be extinct and survives the inexplicabilities we call coincidence. The word is often used to mean the accidental but literally means to fall together. The patterns of our lives come from those things that do not drift apart but move together for a little while, like dancers. They come together in those moments that are the coupling of unseen forces, a generative warmth, a secret romance between the unknowns that are also our parents.”

-from The Faraway Nearby by Rebecca Solnit



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