Would you like to live with me? 

On breakups, Winogradsky columns, and cohabiting

Would you like to live with me? 
On breakups, Winogradsky columns, and cohabiting

DADDYillustration-01

This November, we wanted to hear your deepest, darkest CONFESSIONS. We wanted to know what makes your blood boil and which naughty habits fill your heart with joy – and you delivered. 

This November, we wanted to hear your deepest, darkest CONFESSIONS. We wanted to know what makes you blood boil and which naughty habits fill your heart with joy – and you delivered. 

My body felt it first, or, more precisely, my gut. It began as nausea, or perhaps a knot of undefinable fear, as if all the invisible beings — the bacteria and microbes that call my body home — were screaming at me: ‘Listen to us! Save yourself!’ But I wasn’t listening. It was only later that the rest of me caught on. My relationship, one that had lasted most of my adult life, was over. Once I began to understand this, I resolved to pay more attention to tiny beings: the bacteria and protozoa that were easy to ignore but had so much to tell me.

I got into making Winogradsky columns: containers filled with mud and water, assembled for the purpose of scientific observation. Nothing special at first glance, but upon closer inspection a whole ecosystem teeming with life. A psychedelic circus of bacteria, algae, and small, shimmying worms.

It’s pretty easy to make a Winogradsky column. Take a scoop of wet soil, ideally from near a source of water. (My first batch was from the Panke in Wedding, my second from the entirely artificial waterfall in Viktoriapark. I preferred the idea of the second site, a place of unnatural nature.) Mix your mud with shredded newspaper, for carbon, and an egg yolk, for sulphur. These are necessary for survival, but be careful to add the right amounts — rotten eggs are particularly foul. Layer soil and some additional water into a transparent cylinder (lots of people use old soda bottles, I prefer jam jars) and wait. It’s like a fermentation recipe, but one that would maybe kill you if ingested.

Unlike a Petri dish, which isolates and cultivates a single species, the Winogradsky column aspires to chaos and entanglement. Like humans, microbes behave differently when they’re living together than when they’re alone. They invade one another, they swap genes, they fight and fuck and make alliances. “Cohabitation,” writes the microbiologist Lynn Margulis, “results in symbiogenesis: the appearance of new bodies, new organs, new species.” These entanglements, between different living things, are the basis of all life on earth. The primordial soup that, billions of years ago, helped single cells become multicellular.

Conversely, I was engaged in a process of detangling. An end to cohabitation, all that intimacy, tying up loose ends. (Can you sign this form? When will you move out? How could you do this to me?) It’s very difficult to untangle lives that have been bound together for so long. I cried, of course, every day at first, then less, as though a leaky tap were slowly letting the grief out. I was staying at a friend’s place, and the strangeness of waking up each morning in someone else’s home only added to my confusion. I hadn’t packed the right clothes for the weather. I spent more money than I earned. For a little while, lacking both appetite and imagination, I would drink wine in lieu of dinner. Everything felt very out of control.

Inside this jar was a different kind of chaos, one that seemed good and healthy and filled with potential. During its initial 24 hours or so, the column had mostly been settling. The soil sinking to the bottom cleared the water at the top, creating an almost miraculous separation of light and dark. The first dawn. Then came the worms. Tiny, flailing things that danced in the sunlight. Some were so small they were almost invisible. At some point, they vanished altogether (had they died? How?), replaced by bubbles. Something new was breathing, metabolising, starting to multiply. Every ten seconds or so, a bubble would release its grip on the soil bed and float to the water’s surface.

(A reminder to breathe. A meditation app I was using asked me to count: one, inhale. Two, exhale. Three, inhale. Now scan your body, starting with the top of your head. How does it feel? My skin would feel on fire, jittery, alive with the mites and bacteria I knew were there. Creatures burrowed in my eyelash follicles, streptococci partying under my fingernails. I was tormented. How much feeling is too much?)

Sometimes I’d think, who was I to them? Not a caretaker or a gardener, that’s for sure. After the initial set-up, the Winogradsky column requires little to no upkeep. It didn’t need me, life went on. Perhaps I was their captor, their prison guard? After all, here was a segmented space, entirely observed and impossible to leave. I wrote little reports on what happened. One day I noticed, scuttling on the glass as though looking for a way out, a few small green insects. I felt revealed, caught out in an act of cruelty. I’m sorry, save yourselves! But I don’t think they were listening. Besides, where would they have gone? 

If you were to look closely at a nucleated cell, closer than the naked eye allows, you might see a rogue gene floating within its cell walls. These are traces of past encounters: where other, different bacteria once lived, perhaps millions of years ago. Would you like to live with me? Maybe its lover climbed in voluntarily, maybe it was devoured or trapped. Sometimes the arrangement is mutually beneficial, at other times entirely parasitical. Nonetheless, the tendency of life, all life, is to come together and then reemerge in a new, more complex kind of wholeness. Everything leaves a trace.

Acceptance, supposedly, is the final stage of grief. I’ve always hated this idea that suffering can be so cleanly compartmentalised, as though pain could be plotted along a timeline. Now: anger; next up: depression! Don’t worry, though, acceptance is on the way! But what other conclusion could there be? That things will change is inevitable. That’s just how life is.

My body felt it first, or, more precisely, my gut. It began as nausea, or perhaps a knot of undefinable fear, as if all the invisible beings — the bacteria and microbes that call my body home — were screaming at me: ‘Listen to us! Save yourself!’ But I wasn’t listening. It was only later that the rest of me caught on. My relationship, one that had lasted most of my adult life, was over. Once I began to understand this, I resolved to pay more attention to tiny beings: the bacteria and protozoa that were easy to ignore but had so much to tell me.

I got into making Winogradsky columns: containers filled with mud and water, assembled for the purpose of scientific observation. Nothing special at first glance, but upon closer inspection a whole ecosystem teeming with life. A psychedelic circus of bacteria, algae, and small, shimmying worms.

It’s pretty easy to make a Winogradsky column. Take a scoop of wet soil, ideally from near a source of water. (My first batch was from the Panke in Wedding, my second from the entirely artificial waterfall in Viktoriapark. I preferred the idea of the second site, a place of unnatural nature.) Mix your mud with shredded newspaper, for carbon, and an egg yolk, for sulphur. These are necessary for survival, but be careful to add the right amounts — rotten eggs are particularly foul. Layer soil and some additional water into a transparent cylinder (lots of people use old soda bottles, I prefer jam jars) and wait. It’s like a fermentation recipe, but one that would maybe kill you if ingested.

Unlike a Petri dish, which isolates and cultivates a single species, the Winogradsky column aspires to chaos and entanglement. Like humans, microbes behave differently when they’re living together than when they’re alone. They invade one another, they swap genes, they fight and fuck and make alliances. “Cohabitation,” writes the microbiologist Lynn Margulis, “results in symbiogenesis: the appearance of new bodies, new organs, new species.” These entanglements, between different living things, are the basis of all life on earth. The primordial soup that, billions of years ago, helped single cells become multicellular.

Conversely, I was engaged in a process of detangling. An end to cohabitation, all that intimacy, tying up loose ends. (Can you sign this form? When will you move out? How could you do this to me?) It’s very difficult to untangle lives that have been bound together for so long. I cried, of course, every day at first, then less, as though a leaky tap were slowly letting the grief out. I was staying at a friend’s place, and the strangeness of waking up each morning in someone else’s home only added to my confusion. I hadn’t packed the right clothes for the weather. I spent more money than I earned. For a little while, lacking both appetite and imagination, I would drink wine in lieu of dinner. Everything felt very out of control.

Inside this jar was a different kind of chaos, one that seemed good and healthy and filled with potential. During its initial 24 hours or so, the column had mostly been settling. The soil sinking to the bottom cleared the water at the top, creating an almost miraculous separation of light and dark. The first dawn. Then came the worms. Tiny, flailing things that danced in the sunlight. Some were so small they were almost invisible. At some point, they vanished altogether (had they died? How?), replaced by bubbles. Something new was breathing, metabolising, starting to multiply. Every ten seconds or so, a bubble would release its grip on the soil bed and float to the water’s surface.

(A reminder to breathe. A meditation app I was using asked me to count: one, inhale. Two, exhale. Three, inhale. Now scan your body, starting with the top of your head. How does it feel? My skin would feel on fire, jittery, alive with the mites and bacteria I knew were there. Creatures burrowed in my eyelash follicles, streptococci partying under my fingernails. I was tormented. How much feeling is too much?)

Sometimes I’d think, who was I to them? Not a caretaker or a gardener, that’s for sure. After the initial set-up, the Winogradsky column requires little to no upkeep. It didn’t need me, life went on. Perhaps I was their captor, their prison guard? After all, here was a segmented space, entirely observed and impossible to leave. I wrote little reports on what happened. One day I noticed, scuttling on the glass as though looking for a way out, a few small green insects. I felt revealed, caught out in an act of cruelty. I’m sorry, save yourselves! But I don’t think they were listening. Besides, where would they have gone?

If you were to look closely at a nucleated cell, closer than the naked eye allows, you might see a rogue gene floating within its cell walls. These are traces of past encounters: where other, different bacteria once lived, perhaps millions of years ago. Would you like to live with me? Maybe its lover climbed in voluntarily, maybe it was devoured or trapped. Sometimes the arrangement is mutually beneficial, at other times entirely parasitical. Nonetheless, the tendency of life, all life, is to come together and then reemerge in a new, more complex kind of wholeness. Everything leaves a trace. 

Acceptance, supposedly, is the final stage of grief. I’ve always hated this idea that suffering can be so cleanly compartmentalised, as though pain could be plotted along a timeline. Now: anger; next up: depression! Don’t worry, though, acceptance is on the way! But what other conclusion could there be? That things will change is inevitable. That’s just how life is.

© DADDY Magazine

Imprint

web design by mimosa agency

Facebook  -  Instagram

© DADDY MAGAZINE

Imprint

By continuing to use the site, you agree to the use of cookies. more information

The cookie settings on this website are set to "allow cookies" to give you the best browsing experience possible. If you continue to use this website without changing your cookie settings or you click "Accept" below then you are consenting to this.

Close