During my visit to the Grulla National Wildlife Refuge, southeast of the tiny community of Arch in Roosevelt County, an archaeologist told me as recently as 600 years ago natives walked for days to butcher bison mired in the mud of the salt lake.
Even the bison who weren’t killed by natives — who may have traded their meat for corn, squash, turquoise and other goodies from nearby tribes — have been dead almost as long. The natives who made it to a ripe, old age still died by 50.
Though most creatures are fairly interested in continuing to breathe, the only entity that survives the temporality of individual life is the river of DNA.
Richard Dawkins said of DNA: “The genes themselves have a flint-like integrity. The information passes through bodies and affects them, but it is not affected by them on its way through. The river is uninfluenced by the experiences and achievements of the successive bodies through which it flows.”
Even chaotic hydrogen gases in far-off galaxies seem driven to birth stars that spawn planets the right distance from their solar ovens to create tributaries flowing with new rivers of DNA.
Swimming up one of those tributaries on an as-yet unborn planet — where lightning striking a primordial pond possibly ignited strands of DNA into primeval life — may be fish similar to Grulla’s extinct species.
Perhaps billions of years later, as birds swoop down after the fishes’ offspring to keep their own river of DNA flowing, natives will hungrily shadow bison-like creatures on the water’s edge, culminating in a mysterious dance of life and death between divergent creatures converging in time.
And long after Earth has been incinerated by its own star, that planet’s newest stars — Sonny and Cher’s stardust cousins — may warble “Boys keeping chasing girls to get a kiss.”
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