After our research jaunt up to Ballina and Killaloe, my parents dropped me off in Cork, then went off to places unknown. They probably told me where they went, but, due to the fact that my skull course is coming to an end, I promptly forgot. Instead I settled in to my cave and began studying away, trying to pull everything together in the hopes that I might be able to pull off a masterful final exam and paper. The problem with studying bones is that, at some point, you do have to actually take exams (ok, up until this point, I’ve had about one exam a week, most of which I have been doing fairly well on). However, I generally hate exams, as the pressure of being timed makes me a bit squeamish. Up until this point I had been doing fairly well, as, well, it had basically been one huge review with only a little bit of new information. In past classes, I had spent quite a lot of time looking at all of the “big” bones in the head (mandible, parietal, occipital, frontal) along with some of the more “medium” sized bones (temporal, zygomatic, maxilla, palatal/palatine). Now, after a brief respite during our trip, I needed to plunge back into my studies, but now with a much more excruciating set of bones, namely, all the little bones that like to hand around your nose and eyes and the exact center of your head, where they all come together like an infuriating Gordian Knot of bone. They are also particularly hard to side. Forget siding–it’s hard enough to figure out which way is up.
These are, also, some of my favorite bones, because they are so pretty.
Bones have always, to me, told a story, but not always the story you would expect. Sure, some bones tell the story of a person’s life (one of my friends is doing research into isotope analysis and has been able to use it to track migratory patterns, to the point that she figured out marriage patterns between an inland group and a seaside group, where the men would stay in their ancestral homes, but the women would intermarry between the two), which is absolutely fascinating, but like stories in a library, only so many of them are true. Some are absolutely fascinating and, well, entirely mythological. You see, my absolute favorite bone is one most people never see. It’s called the sphenoid, and it lives in the middle of your head, right at the center of that Gordian Knot, and it is a butterfly.
Now, tell me, how did a butterfly get inside your head? What does it do? Does it tickle when it flutters its wings? If you don’t let it move its wings, does it stiffen and make you grouchy? When your heart breaks, do little bits of its wings break off? If you hold the sphenoid in your hand and look down at it, it is a butterfly, just like from the front, but its wings have weathered storms and have little chips in the edges–they are not like the beautifully smooth wings of a Monarch, or even the symmetrical sharp edges of the Comma. They are the wings of a butterfly that has been flying for a little too long, but somehow, has found the strength to keep flying for just a little bit longer.