Ode to My Mother

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It’s really safe to say that I haven’t dealt very well with my mother’s passing. I didn’t have her long enough. I didn’t appreciate her enough. I didn’t say I love you enough. And it occurs to me that I need to express my feelings about her. This blog post is a tribute to her.

More than a decade before my mother passed away, she wrote a poem about dying, entitled “I’ve Gone Walking.” This message to her seven children is a reminder that life is fleeting and that while we are here we should look for beauty in our imperfect world.

My mother was a poet, a writer, a water-color artist, an avid quilt-maker, and a home-maker. She found great beauty and inspiration in many types of flowers, and to her they mirrored the grace of God. She was born in the Great Depression era, suffered through a war-time unlike any America has seen since, and thus understood the value in the small things of life. Because of her love for nature, she walked each day. She kept her eye on wild flowers that grew along the path and she would tend to them to make sure they stayed beautiful. It infuriated her when the city mowed them down and often she scattered seeds to encourage them to grow.

mom-1949

Ruth

My mother was beautiful. She had the classic beauty of any film star, but was down-to-earth and gracious. She was quiet, unassuming, and a little introverted but also full of vim and verve. Do you remember the cowardly lion from Wizard of Oz using that expression?

It’s sad, believe me, Missy,
When you’re born to be a sissy,
Without the vim and verve.
But I could show my prowess,
Be a lion, not a “mowess,”
If I only had the nerve.

She had vim and verve in spades. Even when struck down by Alzheimer’s and up until nearly the very end, my mother was striking, intelligent, and absolutely the antithesis of a quitter.

Sometimes my children ask me what she would think about this modern generation. Mom loved children, likening them to flowers in a garden. They are lovely to watch as they grow. They have their season. They have a life path that doesn’t necessarily make you (as a parent) happy, but still you will always look back fondly at their glory. When my mother reached the dark stages of her disease, she clung to stuffed bunnies. At some point she had several in a basket. These gave her some sense of the seven children she had ultimately forgotten. This fact still reduces me to tears.

Because Mom lived through the great hardship that came from the Great Depression, she understood frugality, self sacrifice and budgeting not just money but food, energy, and even emotions. My grandparents built a farm in rural Arkansas with their own hands. They raised eight children living off vegetables they grew, chickens they tended to and a cow they milked. Even when she had very little of her own, Mom was a generous person who regularly sent money to those less fortunate, particularly those in other countries. Mom had lived through the era of the holocaust and the threat of communism, as well as the ugliness of the Vietnam War. She had married a career military man. She would look at the state of America today with grave concern. She would not want us to plummet back into the darkness of the first half of the 20th century. She would not sit idly by. She would fight for what is good and right.

The legacy of my mother is that even amid great darkness and suffering – love, grace, beauty and strength of character will win.

I love you Mom.

Moments on Time

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Stephen Hawking wrote in his book, A Brief History of Time, that time is a relative, personal concept unique to the observer who measures it. The laws of science do not distinguish between the past and the future. Backward time movement is forbidden by the second law of thermodynamics. This particular law, as we watch it play out in physical experiences on Earth, is bound by the rule of Earth’s gravity. In the example Mr Hawking gives, a cup of water falls to the floor, the cup shatters and the water scatters. Whilst water droplets might coagulate into a puddle and are molecularly unchanged, the pottery or glass cup is reduced to shards that will never reassemble themselves in any way. More importantly, time will not reverse. The cup of water will not go back to its intact state on the table. Time does not stop, reverse, and move forward again. This ‘always going forward’ behavior is called an “arrow of time.” Mr Hawking states there are three distinct arrows of time: thermodynamic (where entropy gradually increases); psychological (our perception of the passage of time and how we remember the past but not the future [more on that later]) and cosmological. This latter, he says, is evident by the expanding universe. (PS p.183 Loc.2953 “…the expansion of the universe is [truth]..”)

The psychological arrow is determined by the thermodynamic arrow and these necessarily always point in the same direction. Using the same analogy of the cup of water, I can follow along with Mr Hawking’s entropy analogy (he uses a puzzle, but I like the water cup better). His scattered puzzle pieces represent disorder vs. the put-together puzzle that represents order. If a system begins with some kind of order (put-together puzzle or full cup of water) then over time it will become disordered, because disordered states outnumber ordered states.

I don’t necessary agree that the nature of our universe can be reduced down to a single concept of entropy or order because it then becomes dependent on a fixed beginning, i.e. the big bang. Don’t misunderstand me. I’m not saying there wasn’t a big bang. I just don’t believe it was the first. I have never believed in the beginning there was nothing. The way I see it, the universe is in a constant state of life and death. Think of the Klein Bottle, or the Ouroboros, and there’s another one I can’t remember the name of at this moment. I don’t ascribe to a singular beginning any more than I can ascribe to the boundary condition. I’m also not saying that the 2nd law of thermodynamics isn’t a thing, of course it is. It just isn’t the thing. Mr Hawking uses it to substantiate the psychological arrow of time by concluding that our brains use energy to recall a memory, and the by-product of that energy increases entropy, and therefore “we must remember things in the order in which entropy increases.” Disorder increases with time, he says. 

As he weaves through his chapter on the arrow of time, he evolves – saying, “The collapse of a star to form a black hole is rather like the later stages of the collapse of the whole universe.” The universe expands and expands until at some point it begins to contract. It contracts and contracts, condensing down until it reaches that moment of singularity – or collapse. (I am reminded that this process is a lot like the birth, growth, decline and death of a person). He hypothesizes that the thermodynamic arrow reverses at the beginning of contraction and entropy decreases towards order. But, I’m not convinced that the arrow reverses, instead it seems to me it would just curve along with us and continue to move forward toward a new, albeit violent, outcome. Boom! The big bang again.  But, as Mr Hawking points out, life won’t be around to witness much of that contraction phase. In fact, we won’t come along (again) for a really long time.

I started this topic to help myself work through the idea of getting over the past and look toward the future, and as always, Solace in Science!  I’m reminded how my oldest daughter always teases me, “Mom, your sense of humor is ridiculously diminished each day you work in that humorless job,” so I take my ha-ha’s where I can get them. Thus, it’s humorous to me that Hawking started this chapter from the point of view that we humans can only see now and the past. And that’s how we know that the arrow of time moves forward. That’s why we don’t see time pause, reverse and start again. I think I find this overall approach to understanding time to be a faulty one. If you are the Curiosity Rover on Mars (literary license here, please) and the little computer eyes look up away from the dusty, seemingly dead landscape, and ponder the concept that there are no beings anywhere in the solar system, time still marches forward. The fact that We Humans see now, but we only remember the past doesn’t prove anything about the nature of time itself. Human remembering is really dependent on how strong our recall mechanism is. The information is there, stored perfectly unless our storage mechanism is faulty through some trauma or illness. Our recall mechanisms can be amazing or awful or any shade in between. Just because we can’t remember it doesn’t mean it didn’t happen – anymore than if we can’t see it doesn’t mean it isn’t there.

It’s my opinion and maybe I’m alone in this – we do perceive the future. I’m not sure how it works though. We don’t see it the same way we see the Right Now. Right Now is gone at the speed of light. The future is always just a SOL increment away.

Once upon a time I thought about how a multiverse would have independent bubbles of time, and what would happen when bubbles bump into one another and merge. (Also see ekpyrotic theory.) A topic for another day…

PS: check this out Arrival

There is no settling this dust

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I can’t look at him much less hear his horrid voice. For now, until I summon a plan of action, I won’t listen to, or acknowledge him. #notmypresident

I’m not alone in my feelings. As I type this, there are thousands of people out there marching in city streets in protest. Even more still are those with the idea that we can eliminate the electoral college, or at least convince them to vote the will of the people. Hope.

I want to help. I need to find my voice. Can you believe that I’m afraid? For the first time in my life, I am afraid to speak out. I have much to lose. Being a single parent with no family support, my life is dedicated to providing a home for my daughters. One wrong turn is all it would take to snap the camel’s back.

Undecided. For now.

Sorry, world…

There are no words. 

America has shown its darkest heart, its ugliness , and its ignorance. The rest of the world will know its pure selfishness, now, if they hadn’t known before.

I want no part of it, but I  can’t close my eyes and ears to the jarring, hateful reality.

All I can do at this moment is hope that those responsible will know consequence, and maybe they will learn something.

Maybe.

October’s strange musings

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What do these three songs have in common? Ruby Tuesday, Time After Time, and California Dreamin‘?

Ruby Tuesday and California Dreamin’ were both written in the 1960’s (like me), but it would be 20 years before Time After Time would be released. All were released during the winter. The artists have nothing in common that I know of (Rolling Stones, Cyndi Lauper, and The Mamas and the Papas, respectively.) The lyrics do have some commonality though, in my opinion, and that would be that the songs are reflections (musings) on the past and something that was lost. Ruby Tuesday is perhaps that elusive woman who defies categorization, and comes into your life only briefly – yet leaves this indelible imprint and a wistful longing for something intangible. Time After Time absolutely tells a story of the past and what it’s like to cling to that. Finally, California Dreamin’ has a similar theme of longing for something once known but no longer a part of the current reality. It must also be pointed out that all three of these songs inhabited my subconsciousness on a do loop for too long, plaguing me endlessly and ultimately causing me to question myself (hence the preceding post).

It occurred to me, as things often do in that background program that runs while I perform my duties at work, that these songs and the images that accompanied them have everything to do with my own past. Anybody who says “duh” at this juncture needs to hush right now! How many of you can honestly state you are 100% switched on to self awareness mode at every single moment of every single day, hmm? I’m probably more “switched on” than most people I know  Still, this realization was rather an epiphany for me, and one that (while disturbing on a level) made me feel somewhat comforted. I am a half-century old, plus a bit more, and that means there is a lot of past back there, trailing behind me like a cargo train. The only time we ever get to step into the past is through a dream state or meditation. It’s all there, in the brain’s memory banks. I would dearly love to know if memories are stored in individual honeycomb-like cells or if they are layered one on top of another like sheaves of paper. A topic for another day perhaps.

“How much longer can you hold on?” I asked of that shadow person who was cold, alone and sad. “Is it too late to save you?” These questions, when put into the context of looking at my own self, left me feeling a little anxious. Did my old self really need to be pulled out of the obscure past and into the present?  In attempting to answer this question, I found that the order of the lyrics is possibly significant. You see, when I was barely an adult (20, and technically little more than a child) I got married. After 16 years of that marriage-and dramatic personal changes- I left it behind, loading up a truck and moving away. “Goodbye Ruby Tuesday, Who could hang a name on you? When you change with every new day, Still I’m going to miss you…” My ex husband has always been there, keeping the light on in a manner of speaking, if I ever wanted to come home. “If you’re lost you can look and you will find me, Time after time…” But, I had headed West to California. “All the leaves are brown, And the sky is grey, California Dreamin’ on such a winter’s day…”

Is there still some part of me that looks back to who and where I used to be, longing for the past, or is something much stranger at play?