Lucy is a skeleton, female, 3.2 million years old and belongs to a species known as Australopithecus Afarensis. She was discovered in Ethiopia, 1974 and the study of her bones has advanced understanding of human evolution.

Lucy revealed that her species had human-like features for upright bipedal walking, as well as ape-like characteristics for living in trees. Telling a possible evolutionary tale between us, Homo Sapiens and our very earliest ancestors Homind apes.

In the Ethiopian language of Amharic, she is called “Dinkinesh” meaning You Are Marvellous. An affirmation to the humans who learn about their past, as well as Dinkinesh herself.

Since learning about Lucy I feel that she is always present in my joy of aerial circus and my relationship with the natural world. I wish to share with you the story that she inspires in me as an aerialist, a homo sapien that trains her body to move and live off the ground as well as on it. 

In choosing to train my body to adapt, to hang and move suspended in the air, it could be said that I am regressing, going the wrong way. That my fellow aerial artists, climbers and I are rewinding, retracing our steps and grip on this evolutionary thread. For is there value to be found there, in where we are now?

It is believed that Lucy died falling out of a tree and because the fear of falling is real, I wish this not to be true.

I close my eyes. I am laying on the ground. You are laying on the ground. We are laying on the ground.

I sink deeper, past epidermis, muscle, sinews, beyond the soft delicate skin surrounding my bones, slipping through their hard shell. Following long porous caves, heading straight for the marrow heart, swimming through blood, floating on platelets, squeezing myself into my own cells.

We meet on the edge of deep lush forest, vast inconceivable open land and water.

Lucy is here, I feel it in my bones as they shrink, shift, adapt to her shape. I squirm about in my fresh smaller frame, rebelling, objecting angrily before shaking myself off and accepting these new terms.

The forest grows even taller around me, the vast horizon breathes a hair’s breadth closer. I hear only the wind invisibly conversing with trees and tall dry grasses.

I slowly pick myself up, momentarily resting in a low deep squat whilst I work out these new proportions, long arms covered with soft fine hairs, extended slender curving fingers, downy breasts and a gentle rounded belly gurgling with fruit.

Five human-like toes spread wide, impressed on rotting leaves and fresh soil, release the musty fragrance of female mingled with earth. Feet below me firmly planted in the ground, as if I had been growing here all along.

I know where I am now. Or at least a strangely familiar feeling in the bowl of my hips brings me confidence. I enjoy the strength in my legs as they straighten, spine unfurling to full-grown height, standing 1.1 metres tall. Eyes bright and wide look ahead, receiving the light of a younger sun.

The vast horizon rests in my eyes, inviting me to explore. I feel the length of my neck from behind and the coolness of trees, spine reaching up in the base of my skull as my head turns to merge with the expanse.

For now, I turn towards the darkening forest and walk.

I walk towards it, putting one foot in front of the other, relaxing into an ancient unrefined rhythm, heel first, then arch, then toes, strong gluteus muscles working hard. Entering the forest I am welcomed with noise, the sounds of those that live in trees. Stepping into the moist air and shade, like exchanging one life for another.

I go deeper until I find the tree, it is huge and magnificent, with boughs reaching towards the ground to scoop me up. I take hold of one and begin to climb, feet easily leaving the floor. Strong dense arms carrying me into the air, pelvis and legs suspended and swinging lightly. Long fingers curling around handholds, branches and grooves, toes gripping on to bark.

I pause for some time to look back. Hanging there from arms, breathing deep and full, my artful rib cage conical, flaring out at the bottom and narrowing towards the top. My narrow shoulders giving space to wing-like scapulae, I feel a surge of exquisite joy as I move upwards with ease.

I am completely enfolded in the green now, the horizon is hidden from me by leaves and I from it. I find a new miniature world of ferns, aerial lakes and colonies of bugs to interest me and settling here I rest.

The tree and I talk to each other in the language of molecules, an intimate exchange of breath and food. Cradled by its boughs, I find a child’s memory inside, another body, held close and safe off the ground, climbing on shoulders, hanging off backs, carried over lands. Held, suspended in time, transported to sleep.

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