This is the Jay Lake genome scarf

Last year, I got a package in the mail that is the very definition of bitter-sweet. It was from Jay Lake.

The Jay Lake genome scarf by Astrid Bear

I say that it was bitter-sweet because I knew what it was. I’d heard Jay talk about this project. This is his genome, woven by Astrid Bear. More specifically, it’s the base pair sequence of my Chromosome 18, the one most likely implicated in his colon cancer, and Astrid translated it into a weaving sequence.

Interestingly, the sequencing only shows one half of the genetic makeup. C only bonds with G and A only bonds with T. On the readout, you’ll often see more than one of the same letter in a row – this doesn’t indicate that, say, A has bonded with A across the chromosome, but that two base pairs of A and T are next to each other. The scarf reflects only the half of the data that is represented on the readout. To read the scarf from the beginning of Chromosome 18, align it so that the side with wider green stripes is to the left.

It’s odd, I went to a wedding this weekend and my niece asked me if it was okay to wear a black dress. I grew up in a time when the answer was “no” because black was a color of mourning. Times have changed and it’s now totally acceptable to wear at any event.

So what does one wear to mourn? I’ll be wearing this.

And I’ll be wearing it to celebrate Jay as well.  It is soft and beautiful and vibrant and, as Jay said, “A celebration of my life and a poke in the eye of my cancer via the medium of fabric art.”

It is a most beautiful and bittersweet gift.

 

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5 Responses

  1. Cat Kimbriel

    It is beautiful, and also bittersweet. Wear it and think of all he did in so short a time.

    The Earth will miss the weight of his presence.

  2. betsy

    I am so sorry, Mary. I didn’t know Jay but I’ve been grieving that I never met him because of the many beautiful memories he left with people. A special person, indeed. And his book is the next I’m going to read.

  3. Sally

    How lovely. That’s exactly what Jay would want.

    When I was in the autograph scrum at last year’s Nebulas, I told Jay I was happy to see him “and your internationally-famous genome!” He laughed heartily.

    The tassels are like a Jay quipu.

  4. Astrid Bear

    I love that you are wearing this for mourning Jay. And I hope that you’ll enjoy it for happier times as well.

    Re: wearing black to weddings – it does look odd to us of previous generations, interesting how this has changed.

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