I must admit, I’m still a bit like a kid in a candy store when I go into the bone lab. I mean, having my own code is one thing, but being able to walk in, take a box, and start handling them whenever I want is pretty amazing. Not only are they pieces of the structure of every human being, but they are old, like little pieces of history themselves. The most valuable thing, or interesting, I suppose, is that none of the pieces are the same.
They are, of course, all the same. They are the same bones that serve the same purpose in every body. Despite that, they are very different. Their sizes are different, the wear on the bones is different. Even the color is a bit different on each bone. Some seem to crumble away the moment you touch them, while others will last through many more years of students handling them. I can spend hours inspecting them, often running my fingers over the ridges to help me remember where various nerves and veins lay and the bones have formed protective ridges around them.
But most of all I am reminded of two things; first, how each one is a bit different, and second, how fragile life is. The bones of the skull are meant, of course, to protect life, but this protection is quite the double edged sword. All of those slender pieces of bone, if they are somehow broken or dislodged from their moorings, can suddenly become deadly shards. The smallest change can make the difference between life and death.
My usual ritual for studying often begins with my notes at a coffee shop (because, of course, coffee), and after an hour or two, I eventually find my way to the lab, staying there until it closes. I must admit this has inadvertently (alright, maybe purposefully, but only once or twice) led to my missing my Least Interesting Class, as I would study before class, and then study through the beginning of class, which would, of course, necessitate that I not attend, as coming in late would be rude. So studying was the best option. Of course, I had friends in the Least Interesting Class, who I knew would have my back, since we regularly swapped notes with each other for classes we managed to miss.
The important part of this, of course, is that one of these classes I really needed. One of them was the bones, which is what I needed; the other was a cultural history course, which had a professor who wrote beautifully, but who could not seem to manage to speak as eloquently–in fact, he read most of his presentations (which is why we were so confident in skipping the class). The bones, of course, are the basis of what I want to study and research.
One of my friends in the lab is working on her doctorate, and I regularly talk with her about her research. We often talk about the stories of the bones. Her particular research looks at isotope analysis, through which she has been able to track people’s movements. The bones tell a story–they always do, no matter if they are the big stories we think of, like how a person died, or what childhood diseases they might have suffered from, or the equally large stories that we rarely think of, like where people moved to, or who married with whom. It really is all a matter of perspective, and what question is being asked.