The expansion of a moment, millions of years in the making

Swimming over sea grass is one of my favourite things to do. A meadow of sea grass can change direction with such totality with even a small wave. Where I swim most with seagrass, at Bronte Beach on Bidjiagal and Gadigal land, the seagrass meadow is on a shallow, rocky reef which sees decent surf – especially in winter. When there are waves that are too big for me, I sit on shore and wonder what the seagrass and its inhabitants do as the waves smash on their home in slabs. They do something though – because when the water calms they’re still there. The Bronte bogey hole was build in the 1920s, but the seagrass meadow and the beach itself has likely been there for hundreds if not thousands of years. There are millennia of movement, growth, decay, and growth again all while the seagrass shifts and moves faster than the sand in a rip.

I wanted to make a comic that captures the movement of seagrass. I drew a sequence of motions that I see in seagrass in a small swell, where it can stand straight, flow in helixes and fans, and switch in a few seconds. I drew it as if it was the same patch of seagrass in every panel, moving and flowing in sequence through the comic. Using a simple sequence of square panels with a fixed scale, now when I look at it, the whole grid looks like a rippling meadow.

This year, I want to expand on what I was writing about in 2021 – exploring the stories that may seem like a snapshot or a moment, but in fact are a legacy of deep time. Rather than collapse time, I want to take stories and moments that to my human senses feel like a few seconds and expand them to represent the textures and movements of the Earth system.

Seagrasses have evolved from the same distant evolutionary ancestor as palms, bamboo and landgrasses. Meadows under water hold many of the same ecological characteristics as meadows on land, as well as the old, slow growing peats that accumulate carbon on land. They are a reminder that our mental separation of land, sea and sky is neither accurate nor particularly helpful when thinking about the way we move through the Earth.

The comic I drew, as a quick, abstract moment was – in my mind – set a few weeks ago. But it could be set 800 years ago, and if we succeed in valuing and nurturing the world we are a part of, it could also be set in the future. Telling stories of the moments of the world can be a way to value the immense texture of the planet, and appreciating the deep time that happened the encounter of my human body, swimming over seagrass.

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