My body contains multiplicities. I am crushed particles of ancient sedimentary and metamorphic rock. I am giant kelp that grew in a marine forest beneath offshore oil platforms. I am the salt taken into these veins and released into this flesh with the sun. I am ground limestone. I am the rain. I am dirt that has been hidden under the surface of Los Angeles for a hundred years. I am the coarse, dead fibers of non-native palm trees brought to this land as props for a fantasy that didn’t include me. I am algae and ground pig bones and slippery palm oil, processed with bleach to appear clear. I am arsenic. And lead. I am aluminum at one hundred times the expected concentration. I am 3240 mg of iron per kg. I am evidence. I am history. I am waste. I am also the seeds of repair. I am millions of spores from some of the only organisms in existence that can metabolize my poisons. I am the promise of sorghum and sunflower. I am mycelium feasting on exudates from my nascent roots and enveloping my fragile tips with resiliency. I am biodegradable, and I am fleeting. My name is Joule.
Dear Caretaker, Thank you for accepting custody of me, despite my dangers. I cannot protect you from myself any more than I can protect myself from you. But, I am comforted to know we are in this together. I am happy in my present form, but I know it can not last. When it is time to say goodbye, please bury me in the dirt and shower me with water. Give me warmth, and place me in a dark space. Understand that my spores and seeds will be aged by this time, so they may not germinate. It will take time, moisture, and warmth for my membranes to decompose, so be patient. If anything green emerges from this ground, place me in the sun. If nothing emerges from the dirt, you may add seeds and spores from remediating plants and fungi to the earth above me. I have enclosed a report of my known contaminates and a resource list you can use to identify regionally appropriate plants and fungi to extract and metabolize them, if you wish. Even though these new seeds and spores may not be a part of my body now, the plants that emerge from them will be an extension of me. So, do not eat them. As the plants live and grow in my remains, they will take the toxins from my flesh into their flesh. After these plants reach the end of their life, remove them from the ground and dispose of them as toxic waste. Lest the cycle continue. With each generation of plants and fungi that grow in me, my flesh will become less toxic. When you are done with me, please return my remains to the land. Perhaps, it is most fitting that I be laid to rest with my brothers and sisters in a polluted site where no grass grows, so that my existence and your care for me might help that ground remember what it was before its trauma and what it may become again. Document this transformation for me and share it with those who also seek to remember and to forget. I have set up a foundation to collect and preserve this documentation. The contact information for this foundation is listed at the end of this testament. Thank you for being a part of this journey with me, Joule The Joule Project Executor, Ashton Phillips www.ashtonsphillips.com/the-joule-project/
Reports from the Field