Birds vs Bees

People are sure weird about sex.  When I was twelve, my guardian, Aunt Judy, arranged at considerable inconvenience, to have my cousin Jeanne, eight years my senior, come and officially talk to me about sex, while my Aunt and Uncle made dishwashing noises in the kitchen.  That was weird.


Jeanne made much of getting seated right next to me on the living room couch, pencil and paper at the ready.  After a flurry of nasty diagrams, she told me that babies get made when the daddy puts his “thing” inside the mommy.  Then nine months later a baby comes out.  I was embarrassed, not about the making of babies, but about everybody thinking I didn’t know.  I knew, but I didn’t want them to know I knew.  Piqued, I played their game, acting dumb but in actuality sharing my own discomfiture; when she asked if I had any questions, I demanded to know how his “thing” got through the mommy’s nightgown.  Jeanne blushed and whispered furtively, “I guess she can pull it up”.


Judy must have been listening, because at that point she charged out of the kitchen to the rescue.  With a smile that was way too wide, she queried, “How’s it going, y’all?  Ready for some fresh lemonade?”


“Gott’a do my homework”, I mumbled mostly toward my feet.  I sidestepped, and shilly-shallied toward my room, shaking my head.  Why did Judy go to so much trouble to feed me information about babies, and why didn’t she just tell me herself?  I already had guessed that stuff Jeanne told me, just knew, from visits to Grandpa’s farm.  Kids at school made jokes I didn’t understand, but I didn’t know any of the girls well enough to compare assumptions.


So much for “the big lesson.”  Jeanne piled into Uncle C.J.’s Buick and began the tedious drive all the way from Oak Cliff’s Kessler Park, through downtown Dallas, past the old book depository, where Kennedy was shot, then on to Highland Park, while I was left to wonder, but not dare to ask, what was going on.


I knew about the yucky pink thing that Wesson dangled below his shorts while he made morning coffee.  It made me feel nauseous, not that it had anything whatsoever to do with me, but that he knew I saw it and wanted me to see it.  Everything Wesson did had some evil intent.  He despised me because Judy pictured me as the daughter she had always wanted, a pure affection that Wesson could never emulate, nor did he try.  His kind of lovemaking with Judy must surely have been a one-dimensional affair, selfish, crude, and hurtful.  Inexplicable to my childish understanding, Judy enjoyed Wesson’s attentions.  She would put on a slinky ruffled teddy, pottering about the house on week-ends, affecting a “little woman” domesticity while Wesson mowed the lawn, trimmed hedges, and made much ado of his manly chores.  He would come in occasionally to get a fresh beer, and snuggle up against Judy’s backside while she peeled veggies.  He would slip his hand inside the loose silk while Judy giggled and shrugged him away.  Judy was not the giggling type; she better expressed her statuesque elegant nature dressed for a day of professional commerce in an exquisitely tailored suit, silk blouse, leather shoulder bag and suave up-do.


This remembered scene of Judy costumed for the boudoir, a grotesquerie of enticement, had a watercolor quality to it, a Monet camouflaged in its own reticulated light, a softening of truth to something remotely safe to envision.  Even in memory, I cringe.  She would shoo him out of the kitchen, clucking, “Don’t do that in front of the child,” the child” being me.  Didn’t she know it was me, watching, seeing, feeling?  She surely felt the same as me inside, where the tight pull of belly strings told me all I needed to know about womanliness.  That’s what she must have been feeling.  Wesson was showing off for me, bragging wordlessly about what I was missing, what I would never enjoy no matter how much Judy loved my sweet little girl self.  His favorite diatribe when he could catch me alone began, “Mommy’s sweet little thing.  You think you’re so special.  Your crazy mother is the only one who thinks you’re worth anything.”


If Judy didn’t want him to do that to her, she wouldn’t have put on that pretty pin-up outfit.  She did want his hand inside the silk, touching her skin, making her smile.  Why could she want his affection, when she knew sometime soon he would again break bones and make ugly bruises on that same tender skin?  I was awash with questions never to be asked.




Soon I was fifteen and spent weekends helping my voice teacher’s lazy daughter complete her last year of high school as payment for my singing lessons.  Sexual feelings continued to be something that I didn’t talk about.  My teacher lived in Darien Connecticut and was well situated to host week-end parties inviting musical young people from the area for salon performance and socializing.  I typically got paired up with Alvin, a pretty decent violinist, nice and good-looking to boot.  He was sixteen, with an old jalopy, and a new driver’s license.  We rode around or went to the movies or the Soda Shoppe and then returned to the teacher’s house before my curfew.  Before escorting me inside, Alvin always kissed me goodnight.  It was something I looked forward to all evening.  I didn’t care all that much about the movie or the sodas or the pizza; I just wanted to go back to the house and feel his soft lips pressed against mine.


Finally, requisite social group activity completed, we headed home.  Outside, we cuddled while the car idled, holding back the winter chill.  Then he pulled me close and gently covered my mouth with the soft warmth of his lips.  I traced the slit of his lips with my hesitant tongue.  The center of my belly lurched.  The world dropped, and I hung weightless.  Then I slapped him and ran for the house.


This inexplicable pattern of behavior repeated itself several times, until one day Alvin finally asked me, “Why the slaps?”


I gulped, and began; “I saw a movie, with Claudette Colbert and Jimmie Stewart.  That’s what she did when he kissed her.  Wouldn’t you think I’m fast if I liked it?”


“But you do like it?” he asked, taking my hand, his violin sensitive fingers tracing its outline, softly circling my palm.


I dropped my eyes and whispered, “Yes.”


Fingertip lifting my chin, he looked me straight in the eyes and pronounced, “Good.”  That bit of truth negotiated, we puckered up for a real kiss, imagined, actualized, enjoyed, and discussed in the immediacy of the present.  We laughed, cranked open the sun-roof, and headed for the movies.


Alvin and I had an understanding, maybe even a gentle friendship, and enjoyed our occasional date smooches until I took off for Carnegie Tech. to study physics, where my virginity remained resolutely intact.  I was singularly unimpressed by engineering freshmen, whose idea of scholarly competition was to compare whose slide-rule was the longest.  I was out of the running, having chosen a round rule which is quicker and arguably more accurate.


I only slapped one of those silly boys, only a single time, and that was when he pinched my bottom in General Chemistry lab while I was setting up a distillation.  My instincts were pure; completely bypassing interval reaction time.  He pinched; I slapped.  The cavernous room rang with the impact.  I didn’t miss a beat, continuing with my procedure while the other students grinned and whispered behind their hands.


Later, while settling into the pleasurable realities of marriage, I still retained my reticence about kissing and telling.  I insisted, for instance, to my mother-in-law, that nothing had “happened” between James and me, until a swelling belly proved otherwise.  I hadn’t sworn James to secrecy, so I still don’t understand why, when he was presented with the fact of his impending paternity, he declared it must have been somebody else’s doing, swearing he had done nothing, absolutely nothing.  Why are humans so conflicted by sex?  Why did it take Freud so long to realize he was onto something, and for the rest of us to catch on?  The biology and mechanics are easy; it’s the psychology that’s hard, and hopefully the member.

The End

During the cold Massachusetts winter that I was nine, my father disappeared. It was a difficult time for my mother, and for me, the end of the world. Looking back, I see it was the end of her world as well. Mother was a musician and poet, creative and excitable. Sometimes she scared me, but she was all I had, and she loved me. She had good reason to be behaving strangely: Bank accounts were cleaned out, electricity and gas turned off. A fire had destroyed our basement, and we were anticipating eviction.

I wrote a poem for her, an attempt to reassure her, and maybe myself as well, that I could make things better.

I’m a little sunbeam
Not so very tall.
I want to make you happy
Which is not hard at all.

Just mind you and respect you
Each minute of the day
And I will make you happy
With everything I say.

For I love you and I trust you
And I know that you love me,
And I will make you happy.
You just wait and see!

We hung on with help from the church and family far away in Texas. They were concerned but states away from our problems.  Then, unannounced, Daddy appeared at the door on Christmas Eve. He was dragging an enormous fir tree behind him, much taller than our ceiling. Mother cracked opened the door, refusing to let him in, her voice breaking as she hissed, “How could you be so stupid? That tree won’t fit in here! Take it away!”

“But it’s for Dottie. She’s got to have a tree for Christmas,” he pleaded.

“I don’t care who it’s for!” she shrieked, now past caring if the neighbors should hear. “You don’t love Dottie or you wouldn’t have left us here without food or money. Go away! I don’t ever want to see you again!”

My father shrank, jaws clenched, tears plying salty rivulets down his cheeks. Then he bent and broke off a branch, handing it to my mother. “Please take this for her,” he said and turned away, dragging the now imperfect tree down the front steps and out of my Christmastide.

Mother and I watched him drive away, quietly falling snowflakes softening the glow of the Packard’s receding tail-lights until they were no more. She pressed the branch into an urn and positioned it with a cruel irony where our holiday tree had in past years stood resplendent. I kneeled and stroked the pathetic, solitary branch, finally hugging it to my chest, sobbing. Mother left me to my grief, but of course she borrowed it for a poem:

“In her arms she held the sprig of green
As though calla lily rare
Embraced in love and mourned in loss
Her heart knew much to bear.”

I felt icy fingers of resentment slip into my mind to ask what I didn’t dare formulate as words, “Why can’t I have privacy for my grief? It is, after all, mine and not yours.” But I quickly disclaimed the ugly concepts, choosing others more dutiful with which to feel a proper gratitude for the poem. Passing years taught me that my mother, too, had her very own grief to bear. I missed my father terribly but was glad that he was safely removed from our pain.

One night before he left, Mommy had roughly awakened me. She dragged me into the bathroom where Daddy was seated, tugging groggily at his lowered pajama drawers, attempting to cover himself. He, too, was sleepy but was evidently sick as well. “I want you to know just how bad your father smells,” Mommy spoke, jaw tense, her face blotched with anger. “Smell him! He’s sickening! He makes me want to vomit!” I was embarrassed for him, and was shamed by my mother’s deficiency of grace, a concept for which I had no verbiage, but a completely adequate vocabulary of feelings.

The end of this period is marked by my mother’s hospitalization which followed an eventful period of paranoia. She flushed many casseroles, donated by concerned neighbors, down the commode, believing the gifts to be poisoned. A welder, attempting to remove a no-longer-used oil tank from our basement, had started a fire that destroyed all the precious plunder stored there. Mommy decided that it was the will of God to punish our sins because she saw “plain as day” the word “Will” etched in soot on the basement door.

My Aunt Judy was sent for. She rescued me, and I was saved. Driving cross country with her and her husband, Wesson, I was overwhelmed by an intense optimism. When Judy lamented the death of a still-glowing lightning bug that had splatted our speeding windshield, I quipped, “Well, at least he died with his light on!”

The next chapter of my story describes my sojourn in the home of my Aunt Judy, whom I adored, and Wesson, her fat, bald, cigar chewing, and aggressively unfriendly husband. Judy, a beautiful, statuesque, and successful purveyor of upscale ladies ready-to-wear, provided a luxurious standard of living for herself, for Wesson, and then for me, while he dabbled at various sales and mechanical drawing jobs. He immediately pegged me as dangerous, noting the seriousness with which Judy undertook her task as guardian ad litem. Forgetting that children grow vigorously, that first year while attending a trade show, she bought thirty-two Bobbie Brooks blouses for me, brought them home and insisted that I try on each and every one while she smiled and chewed on the rich nut of her new mothering role. She was delighted by this opportunity finally to have a child, even one not of her own blood and belly, but definitely a link to her soul.

Wesson was a horse’s derrière of a different color. He was clever to never accost me when Aunt Judy could hear. “You think you’re something special, Little Miss Priss,” he would sneer. “Mommy’s sweet little thing! Your crazy mother is the only one who thinks you’re worth anything.” Of course I hated him. This was a new uncomplicated kind of hate. It was sweet to taste its purity, unlike the bittersweet complexity of the love/hate I felt for my mother. Wesson arose early, and disdaining the civility of robe or dressing gown, he swaggered fatly in his boxer shorts, his long, soft, pink thing flapping below. I saw him, and he knew I saw him, so expose himself to me, a repeated act at once lascivious and aggressive. Whenever, at my request, Aunt Judy prompted him to adjust his pants, he feigned a shocked surprise, modesty affronted that I should have noticed.

Wesson enjoyed manipulating me to do things that inspired terror. Once each year at the Texas State Fair he required that I ride the big roller coaster, always in the lead car, wedged in between Judy and the press of Wesson’s sweaty bulk. “You have to ride it just one time,” he crowed. “It’s good for you. Keeps you from being a namby-pamby. Come on. Let’s get it over with.” And afterward, “Now was that so bad? You should listen to your old Uncle Wesson!” He insisted that I climb the giant pecan tree, whose luxuriant limbs shaded our backyard. He cut and installed wooden rungs to provide purchase for my slippery tennis shoes on the featureless lower trunk.

Victory over the tree won for me a new confidence, and I climbed it often until I was permanently grounded due to the onset of my menses. At the first sight of blood, Judy declared me a woman, bought me a training bra, and instructed Wesson to stop trying to make me into a tomboy. That was his cue to begin dropping suggestive references to my tentatively burgeoning bosom. I cringed, slumped, hugged my books, and walked lightly, a parody of the invisible.

Succumbing to Wesson’s nagging, Judy several times loaded me onto an airplane, destination pinned to my blouse, and sent me and my suitcase to stay with my mother in her Boston rooming house. The experiment always ended badly, local authorities indignant, and I was returned to the comfort and relative security of Judy’s Dallas home, not a bad arrangement if I could steer clear of Uncle Wesson…
Even more at http://www.morethanenoughtruth.com

The entire story is part of Dante’s Wedding Cake, using an inversion of the metaphor of the Circles of Hell to describe a life.


Seven point six billion humans presently inhabit this planet. That makes the specific aggregation of living cells comprising my personal human form far less than cosmically significant. Whether I live to fight another day doesn’t much matter. What does matter a great deal is that Homo-sapiens-sapiens continues to live and love and evolve, to more beautifully and consistently express the Divine nature. That is important to me and to all of life on God’s green earth. As a species we have a ways to go.

Once I was immortal, or thought I was. In 1950, when I was twelve, I would go fishing with my Aunt Judy. We were members of the Mineola Fishing Club. She would pack her Cadillac Deville with sportswear and fishing tackle, and we would take off for Mineola, Texas and some days of quietude. I adored the time with Judy all to myself. She was a legend at the club with her unique method for always catching more bass, crappie, and catfish than anyone else. Enthroned at the motor end of her boat, she would bait and set four lines on each side. That made her an octagonal spectacle with more than a suggestion of “spider.” She was kidded a lot about her multi-lined approach to catching fish, by more than just me, but she didn’t mind a bit. I went out on the lake with her the first day of every trip, but I couldn’t bear to sit still for long, not making even a squeak that might scare the fish. She was a serious fisherwoman, using minnows as bait, but I was partial to worms. Brem were easy. I could catch them off the dock. They didn’t scare easily, and I liked watching the red and white cork dance when a fish was nibbling my hook. There’s nothing like the excitement of feeling a fish tugging your line and the happy high of landing it. But I didn’t, and still don’t, have the patience for sitting all day in Judy’s boat.

I spent my time hiking the grounds and stalking the clubhouse halls while she was out on the lake. Cook made from-scratch biscuits for breakfast every morning and filled the dining hall with the smell of yeast rolls rising in anticipation of every bountiful supper. A visit to the kitchen often netted me a handout of whatever sweet and spicy was in the works. There was lots of time for thinking. It was at Mineola that I first chewed that worrisome nut “how long I might live.” I puzzled about the ages of all the people in my family and the ages at death of those who had already departed, dear and not-so-dear. I decided that “old” was seventy, but I didn’t have to worry about being seventy since that was so far away I couldn’t imagine ever getting there. Time stretched out in my twelve year old mind to forever.

I was wrong. I did get there and am now seeing it recede in the rear view mirror. It’s a strange thing but widely accepted that time contracts the older a person becomes. Days are now zipping past in a quotidian blur. It’ll be spring before we know it, with winter redefined as having been only a minor inconvenience. We’ll get through it or literally die trying. Not a problem.

One of the delights of being an old person is having the time to remember lovely things, like hiking up to the hatchery above the lake and lying on my belly watching the giant breeder fish hovering in clean clear pools below, rays of sunlight filtering through sycamore leaves and dappling the water’s skin with gold. It was a time of silent contentment, of long hours passing slowly and sweetly in the company of fellow creatures, both flora and fauna. (Are plants creatures? Last season’s TV show featuring an interviewee “between two ferns” had a viable idea.) I was happy then; I’m happy now, visiting the memory. The sun was Texas hot, mellowed to warm in the shade of the great sycamores, and a cool breeze kissed my skin as I lay in good company, sharing my pool of happiness__ just being me.


“To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven…”

Timing is everything. I learned that by changing schools again, and again, and again. Between Miss Chater’s Newtonville, Massachusetts first grade and Westport, Connecticut’s, Staples High School graduation ceremony, where I collected my diploma, I attended twenty-one different schools. Most problematic was being whip-sawed back and forth between northeast and southwest, time after time after time after time.

Most obvious was always being the new girl, the one that others stared at but didn’t engage. I learned it oh so well. The school cafeteria was the main battleground. Entering that dreaded galley, I headed for the nearest empty table and staked my claim. I ate fast, hoping to escape before anyone might notice that no one was joining me. Too often, I skipped the cafeteria line entire, using my lunch money for ice cream or candy to munch while I hid in a good book.

Even more basic than the social obfuscation of being ever on the move, was learning to speak at the correct speed. Texans take their time expressing themselves, snuggling down into the full possibilities inherent in the diphthong, drawing phrases out and up, often ending as a question where none is asked nor inferred. A Texan owns his time. He feels safe settling into it and getting comfortable. In the Lone Star State children are taught to be polite and not interrupt while another is speaking. In a discussion, all will wait until the speaker has completed his thought, and allow a full beat to elapse before jumping in to interject their own opinion.

In New England and especially New York, the opposite applies: In a discussion, a speaker is surrounded by hungry adversaries who pace, salivating, surrounding the teller’s tale, alert for any hint of an incipient pause, wherein they might dart, snatch a word, and supplant their own coo-coo-bird opinion in its place. New Yorkers talk fast. Everybody knows that. I learned it again and again at gut level. There is an art to interruption, and I have yet to master it. It can be done seamlessly incurring little offence, but as a born Texan, that perfect act of timing is beyond me. If I interrupt, I draw scowls of derision, even accusations of being impolitic. My timing is just… off.

An apposite example of Yankee parlance could be any Woody Allen movie. There are no pauses. Each speaker is an island unto himself. No one listens, but everyone natters in an uninterrupted arc of verbal vomitus, every response a non-sequitur, non-responsive since no one has listened to anyone else. I cannot bear to sit through a Woody Allen movie. It creates a temporary insanity that lasts until I can go home and hide until my heart settles down to a normal southern sinus rhythm.

In MSNBC’s Morning Joe, Mika Brezinski fights this battle of timing as competition with her male guests and most passionately with Joe Scarborough. He wants to talk. He doesn’t want Mika to usurp any of his power, and he guards it with snarling, hackle-raised passion. He is the boss. The show bears his name, and it was he who invited her to join his 6:00 AM news program. But she has overstripped his generosity and has become powerful in her own right. Not good! She is uniquely qualified, having grown up in the Zbignew Brezinski household, to moderate and even ameliorate the daily AM fracas, but Joe is having none of it. He will not allow her to interrupt his rants. After many months of urging him to play fair, she has begun simply talking over him, and it works. I can’t believe that my ears can follow his verbal barrage, while with satisfying facility, assimilating her overlaid commentary. My Texas self is offended, but I admire Mika’s bravery. She’s a champ!

I tried to moderate my writer’s group once, but was precipitously fired because one of our New York members interpreted my pause for the requisite beat as proof that I didn’t know what to say. I acquiesced, not wanting to moderate anyway. Others were better suited to that chore…some really great.

The timing of speech patterns does bring up a vital question: Are fast speakers smarter than slow? I suspect they are. Like playing challenging video games, speaking fast must urge people to think in like manner. I saw this played out in my school-girl musical chairs/schools. Dallas, Sherman, and Irving were always a year behind Waltham, Watertown, and Newton. At each move, I had to run to catch up, or settle for a snooze, depending on which side of the Mason-Dixon Line I had landed. I made good grades, but never the straight A’s to which I aspired, and my checkered performance assured me that whatever I did, no matter how slow or how fast I did it, I would never be good enough.

One saving grace in this comedy of ill-timing, netting off-putting performance, has been my curious gift of creativity. No matter where I found myself, I was ever alert and aware, paying attention, and noticing. As I traded school-days for paid work, imagination bridged any gap, whether real or hypothetical. Rote memory has never been my strength, (bo…ring) but a new breaking concept could often save the day. I trained myself to forget the details of a previous job after settling into the next. Why devote cognitive real estate to the past? Even the Buddha extolls beginner’s mind. I have come to accept myself as a Yellow Rose of Texas, retarded in my speech, possibly even in my intellect, but definitely a noticer, appreciator, and cultivator of wild hares.

Once while living and working on the farm, my family’s homestead west of Ft. Worth, I named the new street to my new home “Jackrabbit Track” to honor the flow of new ideas popping up in remembered conversations with my Grandfather as we enjoyed evening walks, scaring up the occasional jackrabbit, opossum, or armadillo. The local postmistress informed me that the US Postal Service does not recognize “Track” even if it is made by Texas jackrabbits. They renamed my street “Jackrabbit Trail,” but I proceeded to use “Jackrabbit Track” as my return address until I moved to Sherman for a better paying job at Johnson & Johnson. Bureaucrats drive me nuts. Maybe it’s a timing issue, as in marching to a different drummer…or dreamer. The truth is that jackrabbits don’t create trails, those roadways laid down by mindless following, nose to tail, the rabbit ahead to wherever some rabbit somewhere up front might be heading. A jackrabbit zig-zags back and forth, dodging obstacles, anticipating twenty leaps ahead, leaving pursuers behind and befuddled. Bunnies make trails; Jackrabbits make tracks.


As a pre-teen, I visited for two weeks every summer with my grandparents on that familiar home place. In the pasture beyond the fenced front yard there was an ancient oak tree with several generations of farming detritus strewn about its roots. There were wagon wheels, rims, chain, wire, lanterns, gears, pails, and innumerable miscellany. Most were rusty, but all were full of imaginative possibility. It was my special Skunkworks.

With these junk components I conglomerated numerous marvels of invention. I made a bicycle with wheels that turned in place but didn’t go anywhere. There was a rocket ship, a loom, and an escalator. There was even a horse and buggy, but you had to imagine the horse. I filled the hours in between Grandma’s meals with my serious “work.”

A scrawny child but growing aggressively, I never lost track of the possibilities of breakfast, (eggs, sausage, steaming buttermilk biscuits with fresh churned butter, pear preserves and red-eye gravy), high noon farm hand dinners spread on the dining room table, the old oilcloth clean but sticky, and quiet evening suppers, retrospective warm-ups of the noontide feast. Those meals must have been inspired by memories of men, strong, hot and dripping sweat, just in from the hayfield and powerful hungry.

The hours under my tree were peopled with those laborer’s ghosts and empowered by their implements laid aside just in case someday they might prove useful to the work at hand. Fortified with Grandma’s cooking, I toiled. Grasshoppers buzzed. Dragonflies chased and caught each other, then lit all-coupled on the quiet creek skim, celebrating the marvels of surface tension. Cicadas shrilled a solid wall of scream. I had all I needed to complete my task.

Each object had a right place where it fit; each necessary to the whole. All the parts went together, mechanisms incarnate. They lived. Wheels turned. Bearings screeched. Rims rolled. Chains pulled. Pails frothed with warm buttery milk. Old harness became pliant and slick with horse and sweat. Square nails and rusty rings married dreams, as once they had bonded boards and leather strapping. Time shrank while I embodied happiness.

One evening Grandpa came to visit me under my tree. I showed him my wondrous creations, demonstrating how each one worked. We spoke of future projects. I confided my worry that since everything had already been thought of there would be nothing left for me to invent. He assured me there were marvels yet to come, and said to keep an open mind for “wild hares” passing. As light faded to the west and early stars blinked on, we walked together toward the house and rest. I slipped my hand into his. “Grandpa,” I asked, “you know, don’t you, that I don’t really believe my machines are real? They are “just pretend” like the mud-pies Grandma and I made when I was little.”

He looked down at me, eyes twinkling but with a face full of serious. “Sure,” he said. “I know. But you can never tell with those jackrabbits.”


That was a different time, a different place, a different perception of self and what propels today’s reality. Timing, whatever iteration of reality, will always be part of the equation.

The famous analyst Carl Jung was fascinated by the possibilities of synchronicity.  I share his excitement when things seem to line up just perfectly, out of all rationality, to make way for something wonderful.  Today, because Remke’s was out of my Fage Yogurt last night, I had to stop off at Kroger this morning to replenish my supply.  It was a bit of dust that had stuck in my i-Phone’s on/off switch that caused me to miss all incoming calls yesterday and took me past Kroger on the way to the Verizon store to address the problem.  In the Nature aisle I met a friend.  If we had chatted much longer, or even a mite less, I would have missed the most exciting announcement I had ever heard on Public Radio:

“The discovery of gravity as a waveform,
emitting from the collision of two black holes.”

That byte of knowledge had won the Pulitzer!  It would become the basis of thought experiments, fodder for human’s creative imagination for the rest of our lives.  Learning that gives me great joy!

As a teen on a church sponsored retreat and tucked into my cot one night, I began humming. The array of bare coiled springs under the mattress hummed back, but only when I hummed certain notes.  Later I asked my dad why.  He explained the concept of sympathetic resonance specific to the precise (tuned) frequency of that set of springs.  He explained that all flexible structures are capable of bending in response to external pressure, then returning to a relaxed state.  When subjected to a discrete frequency of vibration, a structure will attempt to flex and relax at that frequency, and at a proportional amplitude; the stronger the signal, the stronger the responding vibration.

The physical world is amazing, this case in point being the simple coiled set of springs supporting my camper’s mattress.   Everywhere I looked there were wonderful things to learn about.  In this case, the resonant frequency was determined by the composition, shape, and gauge of the spring wire, by the form and additive effect of the coils, by the fixed locations and terminations of the individual elements and by the nature of the couplings at the points of fixation. Not to be ignored were the length, width, and breadth of the integrated construct.  I have a suspicion that my presence, a weighted shape pre-loading the system, had an implication, but I hesitate, not wanting to spoil what I have understood as a lovely reality by introducing yet another complexity to obfuscate clarity of insight.  (Keep it simple, Stupid!)

In 1955, while being interviewed for a possible university scholarship, I explained that my most serious educational goal was to invent anti-gravity.  The money came through, along with an acceptance letter from Carnegie Institute of Technology (now Carnegie Mellon).   Waveforms permeate the universe, presenting a panoply of amazements.  Ever since I met the electromagnetic spectrum it has held a special fascination for me, but gravity was a problem.  It exists, but where can it be represented in our thought?

Surely not on the electromagnetic spectrum, as is light, that presents as a wave but is also particulate, to the puzzlement of scientists the world around.  Now we can likewise see gravity as a waveform.  Like two precisely opposing frequencies of sound or light input to a single receiver, they will cancel each other out, and darkness or silence will result.

Bose uses this trick with sound waves to make their noise cancelling headphones.   Any two differing frequencies input to a receiver will provide a beat frequency that can be utilized, as in a Theremin, a more than way-cool musical instrument.  It is a rectangular electronic box that sprouts two radio-antennae, one vertical, one horizontal.

The player faces the instrument, addressing it with upraised hands.  The trembling right hand produces melody, depending on its distance from the antenna, adding texture and richness with its sensual vibration.  The left is less difficult; it merely controls the volume of the sonorous output from the right frequency-controlling vertical antenna.  The only limitation to artistic expression is the ability of mind to imagine and hands to create and control the flow of the musical output.

The Theremin can sound like just about anything analog.  It can howl like a wolf, shriek like a banshee, or mimic a ghost.  It can even convincingly imitate a passionate violin, viola, or cello.  What can we do with gravity, now that we know it to be a wave?  Have I finally found my illusive anti-gravity?

My point, however illusive, is that if Remke’s had filled their stock of Fage yogurt, I would have missed out on a life altering tidbit of science, and I wouldn’t be here today blathering about pairs of colliding black holes, offset or in opposition, causing perturbations of gravity in the universe.  Is that synchronicity?


I was part of the first tide of fearful but courageous young women who beat and broke bodies and brains against the irresistible menstrual flood wall of male science.  Now women take it as a given that they are welcomed and often even appreciated.  It’s tempting to resent them for giving little credit to us who paved the way for those who followed.  I do resist that temptation and feel only pride and happiness in their achievements.  That lovely confidence they claim as their natural right, makes me a retrospective winner in my own right.  Sounds like resonance to me, a gravitas subject.

Dale called last night at ten, and we were still talking after one.  I marvel that we are so satisfactorily bridging the generation gap, but wonder how he will get out of bed and face tomorrow.  He is a rural mail carrier in the marginally civilized portion of West (by-God) Virginia, his routes taking him into dark hollows that see him as their most important link with civilization.  Born in 1958, he is now pushing sixty, as husband, father, and grandfather.  When, as I often do, I reduce a person to a word, my son Dale is integrity.   Some chalk that up to stubbornness; I see it as having the courage to be real.  Dale is who and what he is, no more, no less.  His equilibrium is linked to his inner ballast; he doesn’t do courtesy or propriety, but his own brand of kindness and honesty turn him out to be a true gentleman.

Dale Warren Taylor is my eldest, agreed by his siblings to be the smartest.  I don’t have an opinion on that score; to me they are all three, Dale, Lane, and Kurt, equally fantabulous.  The Kelsey Martin gene seems to be dominant, be that for good or for ill.  His knowledge as an autodidact does appear encyclopedic, due no doubt to his obsession with the science and history channels, crossword puzzles and Scrabble.  The New York Times puzzle always loses expeditiously to Dale’s pen.  During one frightening visit, our play demonstrated that I could no longer beat Dale at Scrabble, ever.  I must be losing it, or he has achieved a competitive level I can’t match.  Time will tell.

Maybe with his three hour call to his mom he is working off a bit of guilt since for the first time ever he forgot my birthday card.  I was anticipating its arrival with birthday girl glee, but the mailbox remains stubbornly empty or trashed with commerce.  No wonderful card with just the right sentiment, the perfect words to say he loves me for my own true self, not for having given up all to bake cookies and live vicariously through achieving children.  It must take a lot of reading to weed out the trite and select that just-rightness versified.  I do prize him for that.  He loves his mother, as do all three in their own uniquely tormented ways.  I was far from being a perfect mother, having my own agenda which didn’t make of raising a passel of kids priority one.  They each have their own unique rage which they hang on the horns of my own, complementary dilemmas, theirs and mine still snorting and pawing the ground.

If…if only…if only I had done better, they could love me without having to work so hard at it.  I should have been an everywoman.  That would have made it right.  No!  Not that again.  That is a well-rutted track that I have trod a million times and more, looking for the perfection that eludes and runs away laughing in its banshee voice, bouncing off trees and rocks until it damps to the soft resonance of the swamp and gets tangled in spikes of cattail reeds.  There it dies, as well it should.  R.I.P.  “Rrrrrip, rrrrrip, rrrrrip,” agree the frogs.

This is a story that can be told, that should be told, that must be told.  Truth is a fine blanket that covers all with understanding and forgiveness once all is known.  One day I’ll get around to it.

Intimations of Solitude


I wait in solitude.

I breathe in.

I breathe out.

All I really have to do

is accompany my days.

They swirl like skirted pleats of time.

They move like silent friends

into and out of my rooms,

warmed by my fire,

cooled by the night,

attending my being,

They are my days,

My lovely days,

Ever, all, and only mine.


Night calms and shelters sleep.

It sits, dark, upon my bed and waits.

Dream finds and covers me.

I open to his presence,

a blossoming of time and thought.

His tenderness compels.

I open first to him, then to the All.

We soar on sparkling tides of mind,

sifting quarks and streaming galaxies,

swirling eddies in our wake.

Then we rest and wait.

The next and last great thing will be

to thank this grand old carcass

for its days and lay it down,

wrapped in gentle folds of time

on the doorstep to the infinite.


But not just yet.


For crouched beyond the ragged rim of dawn

Tomorrow waits.

My name is slick upon his tongue,

My face a mirror to his vision.

The galaxies that comprise my form

Still resonate with pulse and blood.

When tomorrow comes we laugh!

When tomorrow comes we dance!

When tomorrow comes we fly!