Ken Miller: America’s Darwin Problem

The content of this post disappeared. No idea how that happened.

Anyway, I’m posting another article that I ran across as I’m still not up to posting my own words. Soon, I hope.

                   

America’s Darwin Problem (first published in the Huffington Post)
by Ken Miller, Professor of Biology, Brown University

America’s got a Darwin problem — and it matters. According to a 2009 Gallup poll taken on the 200th anniversary of Charles Darwin’s birth, fewer than 40 percent of Americans are willing to say that they “believe in evolution.” When another study asked if humans had developed from earlier species of animals, the American public split right down the middle. Forty percent said they had, while 39 percent rejected any suggestion that our species had emerged from the process of evolution. Even more worrisome is the fact that rejection of evolution correlates closely with political views, with a majority of the members of one of our major political parties casting themselves as Darwin rejectionists. In this election year, the strength of anti-evolution sentiment has been on full display in the presidential race, as one candidate after another declared their distrust of the scientific consensus around evolution. One member of the group, however, broke ranks with the others and boldly declared, “I believe in evolution and trust scientists on global warming.” How’d that turn out for him? Jon Huntsman’s early exit from the race confirmed something else he said at the time. “Call me crazy” for trusting science, he tweeted. And sadly, it looks like he was right.

Kenneth R. Miller“Significant numbers of Americans have come to regard the scientific enterprise as a special interest group that rejects mainstream American values and is not worthy of the public trust.” Credit: Mike Cohea/Brown University
Kenneth Miller, Brown University
Credit: Mike Cohea/Brown University

You might think that since Americans are a practical, pragmatic people, this is an issue that would turn on the weight of the evidence. It’s not. In an age of molecular genomics, it is ever more apparent that the fingerprints of evolution are pressed deeply into human DNA, just as they are into the genomes of every other organism. Biologists understand this, and so do students who study the science of life. Whether conservative or liberal, fundamentalist or agnostic, the more students learn of biology, the more they accept evolution. So, why does public acceptance matter if the students who actually go into science see the evidence for evolution so clearly?

This is the heart of our Darwin problem. Significant numbers of Americans have come to regard the scientific enterprise as a special interest group that rejects mainstream American values and is not worthy of the public trust. Governor Rick Perry of Texas spoke to this view when he claimed that “There are a substantial number of scientists who have manipulated data” to their own benefit. Why? Perry was clear about this. It’s personal greed. Scientists cheat “so that they will have dollars rolling in to their projects.” Perry is hardly alone in his effort to depict scientists as greedy outsiders, “scamming the American people right and left” in the words of one Fox News commentator.

In American today, anti-evolutionism matters because it has become the vanguard of a genuine anti-science movement. To be sure, opposition to evolution isn’t new. State laws against the teaching of evolution actually go back nearly a century, and the famous Scopes trial took place 87 years ago. However, if you thought such things were behind us, guess again. Laws designed to encourage the teaching of non-scientific “alternative” theories to evolution were introduced in 11 state legislatures last year. This year, Darwin’s 203rd birthday, on February 12th, saw an anti-evolution bill, already passed by the Indiana State House of Representatives, awaiting action in the State Senate. Its fate there is uncertain, but there are plenty of reasons to be concerned.

Our Darwin problem is really a science problem. The easier it becomes to depict the scientific enterprise as a special interest immersed in the culture wars, the easier it becomes to reject scientific findings. We see this everywhere in American culture and politics today, from the anti-vaccine movement to the repeated assertion that global warming is a deliberate “hoax” rather than a straightforward conclusion driven by reams of scientific data. Sometimes this is done for deliberate political reasons, to secure advantage for a particular industry or financial group, but just as often it is motivated by fear of the implications of what science has discovered or might discover in the future.

Charles Darwin

Our Darwin problem matters for two reasons. First, it threatens the future of American scientific leadership in an increasingly competitive world. Convince enough young Americans that science is a close-minded system with a particular cultural and political agenda, and we will cede leadership to emerging countries that don’t share our Darwin hang-ups, and see science as the wave of the future. If you doubt this is happening today, look at the graduate programs of America’s research universities, still the greatest in the world. Increasingly, they are filled with bright, eager, creative students from around the world, taking places that American students just don’t seem interested in filling. Once trained, they will become the scientists of the future, while more and more of our own students have been persuaded that science has nothing to offer them. If this doesn’t change, scientific discovery will increasingly become something that happens elsewhere.

Second, and in my view just as important, our problem with science constrains and narrows our views and vision of the world. My personal concern for those who hold that view isn’t just that they are wrong on science, wrong about the nature of the evidence, and mistaken on a fundamental point of biology. It’s that they are missing something grand and beautiful and personally enriching.

Evolution isn’t just a story about where we came from. It’s an epic at the center of life itself. Far from robbing our lives of meaning, it instills an appreciation for the beautiful, enduring, and ultimately triumphant fabric of life that covers our planet. Understanding that doesn’t demean human life — it enhances it. We may be animals, but we are not just animals. We are the only ones who can truly appreciate, as Darwin put it, that there is “grandeur in this view of life,” and indeed there is. To accept evolution isn’t just to acknowledge the obvious — that the evidence behind it is overwhelming — it is to open one’s eyes to the endless beauty that life has generated and continues to produce. It is to become a knowing participant, in the truest sense, in the living world of which we are all a part.

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“But poems are like dreams: in them you put what you don’t know you know.” ~ Adrienne Rich, from “When We Dead Awaken”

                   

“Re-vision—the act of looking back, of seeing with fresh eyes, of entering an old text from a new critical direction—is for women more than a chapter in cultural history: it is an act of survival. Until we can understand the assumptions in which we are drenched we cannot know ourselves.” ~ Adrienne Rich, from “When We Dead Awaken”

Since I don’t feel up to listening to myself talk today, I thought that I’d share something written by Adrienne Rich, decades ago, just as women were beginning to be taken seriously as poet and writers. They still had a long way to go, and what this essay shows is Rich’s feelings about the patriarchy that controlled all aspects of the teaching and writing of literature

As Rich put it: “. . . some feminist scholars, teachers, and graduate students, joined by feminist writers, editors, and publishers, have for a decade been creating more subversive occasions, challenging the sacredness of the gentlemanly canon, sharing the rediscovery of buried works by women, asking women’s questions,” and this essay was written by Rich specifically for a forum on “The Woman Writer in the Twentieth Century.” Please note that the selections from the essay below are actually taken from the reprint of the original essay, which was published in 1976; I was not able to find the 1971 version.

Selection from “When We Dead Awaken: Writing as Re-Vision,” By Adrienne Rich (written in 1971):

In rereading Virginia Woolf’s “A Room of One’s Own” (7929) for the first time in some years, I was astonished at the sense of effort, of pains taken, of dogged tentativeness, in the tone of that essay. And I recognized that tone. I had heard it often enough, in myself and in other women. It is the tone of a woman almost in touch with her anger, who is determined not to appear angry, who is willing herself to be calm, detached, and even charming in a roomful of men where things have been said which are attacks on her very integrity. Virginia Woolf is addressing an audience of women, but she is acutely conscious-as she always was-of being overheard by men: by Morgan and Lytton and Maynard Keynes and for that matter by her father, Leslie Stephen.5 She drew the language out into an exacerbated thread in her determination to have her own sensibility yet protect it from those masculine presences. Only at rare moments in that essay do you hear the passion in her voice; she was trying to sound as cool as Jane Austen, as Olympian as Shakespeare, because that is the way the men of the culture thought a writer should sound.

*****

A lot is being said today about the influence that the myths and images of women have on all of us who are products of culture. I think it has been a peculiar confusion to the girl or woman who tries to write because she is peculiarly susceptible to language. She goes to poetry or fiction I. looking for her way of being in the world, since she too has been putting words and images together; she is looking eagerly for guides, maps, possibilities; and over and over in the “words’ masculine persuasive force of literature she comes up against something that negates everything she is about: she meets the image of Woman in books written by men. She finds a terror and a dream, she finds a beautiful pale face, she finds La Belle Dame Sans Merci, she finds Juliet or Tess or Salome, but precisely what she does not find is that absorbed, drudging, puzzled, sometimes inspired creature, herself, who sits at a desk trying to put words together.

*****

About the time my third child was born, I felt that I had either to consider myself a failed woman and a failed poet, or to try to find some synthesis by which to understand what was happening to me. What frightened me most was the sense of drift, of being pulled along a current which called itself my destiny, but in which I seemed to be losing touch with whoever I had been, with the girl who had experienced her own will and energy almost ecstatically at times, walking around a city or riding a train at night or typing in a student room. In a poem about my grandmother I wrote (of myself): “A young girl; thought sleeping, is certified dead” “Halfway”). I was writing very little, partly from fatigue, that female fatigue of suppressed anger and loss of contact with my own being; partly from the discontinuity of female life with its attention to small chores, errands, work that others constantly undo, small children’s constant needs. What I did write was unconvincing to me; my anger and frustration were hard to acknowledge in or out of poems because in fact I cared a great deal about my husband and my children. Trying to look back and understand that time I have tried to analyze the real nature of the conflict. Most, if not all, human lives are full of fantasy—passive day-dreaming which need not be acted on. But to write poetry or fiction, or even to think well, is not to fantasize, or to put fantasies on paper. For a poem to coalesce, for a character or an action to take shape, there has to be an imaginative trans-formation of reality which is in no way passive. And a certain freedom of the mind is needed—freedom to press on, to enter the currents of your thought like a glider pilot, knowing that your motion can be sustained, that the buoyancy of your attention will not be suddenly snatched away. Moreover, if, the imagination is to transcend and transform experience it has to question, to challenge, to conceive of alternatives, perhaps to the very life you are living at that moment. You have to be free to play around with the notion that day might be night, love might be hate; nothing can be too sacred for the imagination to turn into its opposite or to call experimentally by another name. For writing is renaming (emphasis mine). Now, to be maternally with small children all day in the old way, to be with a man in the old way of marriage, requires a holding-back, a putting-aside of that imaginative activity, and demands instead a kind of conservatism. I want to make it clear that I am not saying that in order to write well, or think well, it is necessary to become unavailable to others, or to become a devouring ego. This has been the myth of the masculine artist and thinker; and I do not accept it. But to be a female human being trying to fulfill traditional female functions in a traditional way is in direct conflict with the subversive function of the imagination. The word traditional is important here. There must be ways, and we will be finding out more and more about them, in which the energy of creation and the energy of relation can be united. But in those years I always felt the conflict as a failure of love in myself. I had thought I was choosing a full life; the life available to most men, in which sexuality, work, and parenthood could coexist. But I felt, at twenty-nine, guilt toward the people closest to me, and guilty toward my own being.

I wanted, then, more than anything, the one thing of which there was never enough: time to think, time to write. The fifties and early sixties were years of rapid revelations: the sit-ins and marches in the South, the Bay of Pigs, the early antiwar movement, raised large questions—questions for which the masculine world of the academy around me seemed to have expert and fluent answers. But I needed to think for myself—about pacifism and dissent and violence, about poetry and society, and about my own relationship to all these things. For about ten years I was reading in fierce snatches, scribbling in notebooks, writing poetry in fragments; I was looking desperately for clues, because if there were no clues then I thought I might be insane. I wrote in a notebook about this time:

Paralyzed by the sense that there exists a mesh of relationships—e.g., between my anger at the children, my sensual life, pacifism, sex (I mean sex in its broadest significance, not merely sexual desire)—an interconnectedness which, if I could see it, make it valid, would give me back myself, make it possible to function lucidly and passionately. Yet I grope in and out among these dark webs.

I think I began at this point to feel that politics was not something “out there” but something “in here” and of the essence of my condition.

In the late fifties I was able to write, for the first time, directly about experiencing myself as a woman. The poem was jotted in fragments during children’s naps, brief hours in a library, or at 3:00 A.m. after rising with a wakeful child. I despaired of doing any continuous work at this time. Yet I began to feel that my fragments and scraps had a common consciousness and a common theme, one which I would have been very unwilling to put on paper at an earlier time because I had been taught that poetry should be “universal,” which meant, of course, nonfemale. Until then I had tried very much not to identify myself as a female poet. Over two years I wrote a ten-part poem called “Snapshots of a Daughter-in-Law” (1958-1960), in a longer looser mode than I’d ever trusted myself with before. It was an extraordinary relief to write that poem. It strikes me now as too literary, too dependent on allusion; I hadn’t found the courage yet to do without authorities, or even to use the pronoun “I”—the woman in the poem is always “she.”

*****

In closing I want to tell you about a dream I had last summer. I dreamed I was asked to read my poetry at a mass women’s meeting, but when I began to read, what came out were the lyrics of a blues song. I share this dream with you because it seemed to me to say something about the problems and the future of the woman writer, and probably of women in general. The awakening of consciousness is not like the crossing of a frontier—one step and you are in another country. Much of woman’s poetry has been of the nature of the blues song: a cry of pain, of victimization, or a lyric of seduction.(7) And today, much poetry by women—and prose for that matter—is charged with anger. I think we need to go through that anger, and we will betray our own reality if we try, as Virginia Woolf was trying, for an objectivity, a detachment, that would make us sound more like Jane Austen or Shakespeare. We know more than Jane Austere or Shakespeare knew: more than Jane Austere because our lives are more complex, more than Shakespeare because we know more about the lives of women Jane Austen and Virginia Woolf included.

Both the victimization and the anger experienced by women are real, and have real sources, everywhere in the environment, built into society, language, the structures of thought. They will go on being trapped and explored by poets, among others. We can neither deny them, nor will we rest there. A new generation of women poets is already working out of the psychic energy released when women begin to move out towards what the feminist philosopher Mary Daly has described as the “new space” on the boundaries of patriarchy. Women are speaking to and of women in these poems, out of a newly released courage to name, to love each other, to share risk and grief and celebration.

“Pick a piece of wood floating in the river and follow it down the current with your glance, keeping the eyes constantly on it, without getting ahead of the current. This is the way poetry should be read: at the pace of a line.”~ Vera Pavlova, from “Heaven Is Not Verbose: A Notebook” (trans. Steven Seymour)

A Young Adrienne Rich
This is how I see my favorite poets: young, smoking a cigarette, drinking bourbon

                   

“Tonight I think
no poetry
will serve” ~ Adrienne Rich from poem of the same name

One of my favorite poets died yesterday—ground-breaking feminist and anti-war poet and writer Adrienne Rich.

I remember trying to teach Rich’s poem “Living in Sin” in an American literature class several years ago, and while the poem was considered controversial at one time by taking on the social taboo of living together before marriage, the young men and women in my class didn’t understand the point of the poem as theirs was a generation weaned on living together without any stigma. It was kind of a wake-up call for me. You know, that generational thing.

I remember reading a quote from Rich once that embodied everything I have ever felt about writing: “You must write, and read, as if your life depended on it.”

Here is a brief from the SF Gate (SF Chronicle)

Adrienne Rich, one of America’s foremost poets and essayists, died in her Santa Cruz home Tuesday after complications from rheumatoid arthritis. She was 82.

Rich was among the first contemporary poets on the early feminist scene to imagine “the personal as political.” In 1997, Rich declined the National Medal of Arts to protest the House’s vote to end the National Endowment for the Arts. She published 30 books; 19 in poetry and seven in prose.

For a more comprehensive write-upon Rich, click here.

                  

This is my favorite Adrienne Rich poem:

Diving into the Wreck

First having read the book of myths,
and loaded the camera,
and checked the edge of the knife-blade,
I put on
the body-armor of black rubber
the absurd flippers
the grave and awkward mask.
I am having to do this
not like Cousteau with his
assiduous team
aboard the sun-flooded schooner
but here alone.

There is a ladder.
The ladder is always there
hanging innocently
close to the side of the schooner.
We know what it is for,
we who have used it.
Otherwise
it is a piece of maritime floss
some sundry equipment.

I go down.
Rung after rung and still
the oxygen immerses me
the blue light
the clear atoms
of our human air.
I go down.
My flippers cripple me,
I crawl like an insect down the ladder
and there is no one
to tell me when the ocean
will begin.

First the air is blue and then
it is bluer and then green and then
black I am blacking out and yet
my mask is powerful
it pumps my blood with power
the sea is another story
the sea is not a question of power
I have to learn alone
to turn my body without force
in the deep element.

And now: it is easy to forget
what I came for
among so many who have always
lived here
swaying their crenellated fans
between the reefs
and besides
you breathe differently down here.

I came to explore the wreck.
The words are purposes.
The words are maps.
I came to see the damage that was done
and the treasures that prevail.
I stroke the beam of my lamp
slowly along the flank
of something more permanent
than fish or weed

the thing I came for:
the wreck and not the story of the wreck
the thing itself and not the myth
the drowned face always staring
toward the sun
the evidence of damage
worn by salt and sway into this threadbare beauty
the ribs of the disaster
curving their assertion
among the tentative haunters.

This is the place.
And I am here, the mermaid whose dark hair
streams black, the merman in his armored body.
We circle silently
about the wreck
we dive into the hold.
I am she: I am he

whose drowned face sleeps with open eyes
whose breasts still bear the stress
whose silver, copper, vermeil cargo lies
obscurely inside barrels
half-wedged and left to rot
we are the half-destroyed instruments
that once held to a course
the water-eaten log
the fouled compass

We are, I am, you are
by cowardice or courage
the one who find our way
back to this scene
carrying a knife, a camera
a book of myths
in which
our names do not appear.

“Things don’t change, but by and by our wishes change.” ~ Marcel Proust

San Carlos Wildflowers (Wikimedia Commons)

                   

“We must talk now. I am no longer sure of the words,
The clockwork of the world” ~ George Oppen, from “Leviathan”

Wednesday, late afternoon. Sunny and mild. Beautiful outside.

California Wildflowers by Kevin Cole (FCC)

Pollen, pollen everywhere. Yellow dust on the cars, everything. Lots of sneezing.

The boys and I are sort of settling into a routine. We’re taking turns making dinner. Everyone has his or her assigned tasks. Somehow, I still have dishes, all day, every day. One of these days, we’ll replace the broken dishwasher, probably when we rip out everything in the kitchen to remodel. One day.

I’m actually not feeling to terribly awful emotionally. Might be because it’s too beautiful outside to feel awful. Beautiful, that is, except for the pollen. All of the trees that bloom are bursts of color, especially the cherry trees and red buds. So gorgeous. I thought about visiting the cemetery, but didn’t. Something is stopping me.

Corey got everything straightened out with our cellular carrier, and now he can text, which is definitely cheaper than calling. It costs about $.40 for him to text me, and $.20 for me to text him, as opposed to $3 or $4/minute for a call. Anyway, it looks like the ship is going to be headed to Florida sometime next week, that is if the Coast Guard signs off on Fridays inspection. Who knows how that will go.

“Do I contradict myself? Very well, then, I contradict myself; I am large—I contain multitudes.” ~ Walt Whitman

Actually now that I’ve started this post, I’m not sure that I’m actually in the right frame of mind to write. My mind is kind of blank. I’m sitting here at Brett’s computer, for a change. Eamonn is off work today, and he’s in his room and would prefer some privacy. So I’m sitting here at Brett’s small desk, and all I can think is that it really needs to be dusted, not just the desk, but everything.

Barbed Wire and Wildflowers, Gorman, CA

It has only been in the last year or so that Brett has actually taken an interest in making this room his, by that I mean adding posters and things. So I’m looking around, and there are two Shawshank Redemption posters, a Fight Club poster and a Star Wars poster, a framed old map that Alexis got him. an old Chinese paint on wood  picture from the thrift store, and several other things. It’s definitely his room, dust and all.

It’s funny how different my sons are: Eamonn is very particular about keeping his room neat; he puts away his clean laundry in a timely manner and changes his sheets regularly. With Brett, not so much. I see cobwebs and Chinese fortunes laying about. I don’t know why I’m really going into detail here except that it is yet one more way in which my two sons differ as individuals.

At one time, when they were toddlers, the whole point was for them to try to be like each other. People thought that they were twins as they were so close in age, and definitely looked like they could be fraternal twins. I think the real separation began in middle school, that bastion of emerging hormones and attempts to establish oneself as a person by trying to look like everyone else.

Oh the agony of puberty.

“It may be that when we no longer know what to do, we have come to our real work and when we no longer know which way to go, we have begun our real journey. The mind that is not baffled is not employed. The impeded stream is the one that sings.” ~ Wendell Berry

I’ve set some goals for myself while Corey is gone: I want to try to give up sugar completely (or nearly completely), which means no more regular sodas, no more chocolate. I’m already doing quite well, believe it or not in that I am using only Splenda in my coffee and tea. I’m weaning myself from Pepsi and trying to drink more water with Mio, which is quite tasty and has no calories.

Seattle Wildflowers

I also want to begin to walk on a regular basis with a goal towards getting my body ready to go back into a yoga class. With the warmer weather, I feel the need for oxygen and sunshine, and this is definitely a good sign, a sign that I may be willing to leave the house again. My other goal is that I want to get something written while he’s gone.

I have a concept that I’m mulling over, and the more that I ponder it, the more that I like it. It’s completely doable; it’s something that I would enjoy doing, and it would be a great starting point for me to begin to write with goals in mind, you know, goals like getting published, or at least noticed.

Lately, I’ve been having these dreams in which I’m writing things. The other night I wrote a complete short story in a dream. I came up with a concept; I created character names, and I developed the story. I mean, I literally wrote this thing in a dream, and the horrible part is that I dreamt that I was actually writing it down, so I didn’t know that I wasn’t writing it down, which meant that when I finally awakened, there was no story, just the memory of one. It’s still there somewhere, just beyond my grasp. I keep getting glimpses of what it may have been, but not quite.

Another recent dream involved writing a poem. Same basic situation. Sleeping = creating, but Waking ≠ product. I have absolutely no memory of the poem’s theme, contents, development. Nothing.

“The challenge will not wait. Life does not look back. A week is more than enough time for us to decide whether or not to accept our destiny.” ~ Paul Coehlo, from The Devil and Miss Prym

But surely this is a sign? Why would my mind be moving in creative hyperdrive unless it was filled to the brimming with something? Anything?

Mountain Wildflowers by Andrea Schafthuizen (Public Domain)

I do believe in signs. I do believe that the universe gives us hints and nudges us in directions. I believe that if I see something repeatedly, then I am meant to pay attention to it, whether it’s a type of bird, or a word or phrase, or a color. Just as I believe, however falsely, that hearing a crow caw when I first get out of bed is an augury of a bad day. The only problem with believing in signs is interpreting said signs.

Crow equals bad day is fairly straightforward for me. Everything after that becomes sort of blurry and undefined. My dreams, which tend to be on the vivid side, don’t necessarily mean anything. I might have eaten something too spicy. I might be too tired. Who knows . . . But sometimes, now and then, I get the feeling that my dreams are trying to tell me something, and this is one of those times.

So I suppose we’ll just have to wait and see how these signs evolve over the next few weeks.

That’s about all for now. So . . .

More later. Peace.

Music by Sleeping at Last, “Chandeliers”

                   

The Ghazal of What Hurt

Pain froze you, for years—and fear—leaving scars.
But now, as though miraculously, it seems, here you are

walking easily across the ground, and into town
as though you were floating on air, which in part you are,

or riding a wave of what feels like the world’s good will—
though helped along by something foreign and older than you are

and yet much younger too, inside you, and so palpable
an X-ray, you’re sure, would show it, within the body you are,

not all that far beneath the skin, and even in
some bones. Making you wonder: Are you what you are—

with all that isn’t actually you having flowed
through and settled in you, and made you what you are?

The pain was never replaced, nor was it quite erased.
It’s memory now—so you know just how lucky you are.

You didn’t always. Were you then? And where’s the fear?
Inside your words, like an engine? The car you are?!

Face it, friend, you most exist when you’re driven
away, or on—by forms and forces greater than you are.

~ Peter Cole

“Children have neither past nor future; they enjoy the present, which very few of us do.” ~ Jean de la Bruyere

“Seize from every moment its unique novelty, and do not prepare your joys.” ~ André Gide, Nourritures Terrestres

Just wanted to share this with you. Did you know that elephants can smile? This little guy definitely believes in seizing the day:

What is this stuff? This is great!

*****

Here I go . . .

*****

Did you see me?

*****

No, not yet!

*****

Again?

“Time will reveal everything. It is a babbler and speaks even when not asked.” ~ Euripedes

Vintage Zenith Clock Sign in the Carrer de l'Espaseria, Barcelona, Spain, by Arjan Richter (FCC)

                   

“Time has no mercy. It’s there. It stays still or it moves.
And you’re there with it. Staying still or moving with it.
I think it moves. And we move with it. And keep moving.” ~ Simon J. Ortiz from “Time as Memory as Story”

Monday, late afternoon. Sunny, 68 degrees.

The ticking clock? What was I waiting for on Friday? News. A delivery. A decision.

Old Clock in Salzburg by Kitti Jakobovits (FCC)

The shipping company called Corey on Friday and said that they had an immediate opening if he had gotten his credentials back. The UPS tracking said that the package was due to be delivered that day. Should he stay or should he go? We decided that if everything worked out as far as timing, he should go.

In my heart, I knew that going back would be the only way that Corey would be able to redeem himself in his eyes. So we waited. The package was delivered around 3:45. Corey called his contact and left a message. On Sunday he got a call back: Expect to leave on Tuesday. Then he got another call: make that Monday night.

He left today at 2:54, going to Dulles, then to Copenhagen, then to Lithuania.

We checked and rechecked everything. He repacked to make his suitcase lighter. We checked again. If he didn’t have it by the time his baggage was checked at the counter, then he doesn’t have it. But we know for sure that he has his MMD, his passport, his computer and the USB, his phone and the charger . . .

“Time was passing like a hand waving from a train I wanted to be on.” ~ Jonathan Safran Foer

I’m much weepier than when he left the last time. Part of it is timing, part of it is my breakdown on Sunday, part of it is today. It’s just too much to absorb in just one day. Sometimes absolutely nothing happens in a day, and other days, everything happens, and when that’s the case, it’s just too much.

Station Clock, Cobh Heritage Centre, Ireland, by Athena's Pix (FCC)

Let me give you an example: the song “Mandolin Rain,” by Bruce Hornsby showed up on the right side of my YouTube today. I’m not sure what I was searching for that would make that song appear, but “Mandolin Rain” was the song that my ex listened to over and over after we lost Caitlin. It’s a song full of meaning, so of course, it comes blasting back at me like some kind of rocket from the past.

Time is funny that way. It can move along sequentially, and then it can seem to run parallel, and then when things really get crazy, it can seem as if tangents of time are running wildly out of control. As I stood at the airport demarcation between passengers with tickets and the rest of us, I was caught in one of those sequences. Time was moving forward, taking Corey across an ocean away from me. Time was moving backward, bringing back memories of a March afternoon on which I gave birth to my second daughter, and time was standing still as I waited for that final wave—I was static, standing in one place as people came and went all around me, some leaving, some arriving, some running to say hello, some clinging as they said goodbye.

I had all of time in one moment.

“In the yellow time of pollen near the blue time of lilacs
there was a gap in things. And here we are.” ~  Luke Davies, from “from Totem Poem [In the yellow time of pollen]”

Yesterday afternoon I collected these quotes, thinking that I might go ahead and write another post, but after I found the quotes and found the images, I couldn’t write. Sometimes it’s like that. Sometimes I find the quotes and write the post but cannot find the right images, and sometimes I find the quotes, but nothing else comes.

Brighton Station Clock, UK, by Elsie esq. (FCC)

Everything happened so fast between the quotes and the telephone calls. He was going. He was going on Tuesday. He was going Monday night. He was going Monday afternoon.

Last night we lay side by side holding hands and talking—was this the right thing to do? Yes, definitely. Probably. Maybe. Finally I found a way to put what I was feeling into words: Even though I don’t have a lot of faith in this company to come through with a complete hitch for Corey, right now it’s available, and it’s good money. In the meantime he has his other applications out, and he can explore other avenues. This trip gets him back on the water, gives him some ocean time as opposed to near-coastal sea time (it makes a difference, believe me), and he can use however many days he does with this company to put towards a few more certifications, like Tanker Man.

So while the leaving is less than perfect, not nearly enough time to take in everything, the going is good. At least that’s what I keep telling myself even as my chest tightens and I begin to get watery eyes.

“A special kind of silence prevailed, a silence that figures neither in musical nor in philosophical dictionaries, as if time were coming apart and flying off in different directions simultaneously, a pure time, neither verbal nor composed of gestures and actions.” ~  Roberto Bolaño, from Amulet

So after Corey fell asleep last night, I wrote him a letter and left it on his laptop where he would find it later. I told him that I believe in him and that I believe that this is the right thing to do. I assured him that we would all be fine, and asked him to concentrate on his job and not worry about what’s going on at home.

Pocket Watch by Ludmila Vilarinhos (FCC)

Then I tried to go to sleep, unsuccessfully. I had a stomach ache. I had a pain in my chest. Nerves, all of it. Eventually I did fall asleep, even as my mind went through a checklist of things that I needed to make sure were in the suitcase.

Brett couldn’t go to the airport with us as he had a test at school, so it was just Eamonn and me seeing Corey off, telling him to be safe, telling him that we loved him. And I willed myself not to cry, to save the tears for later. Now here I am, sitting at the computer in Eamonn’s room, the afternoon sun coming through the window, Shakes snoring beneath my chair, and the house otherwise empty and silent.

And finally, my body is beginning to feel the exhaustion set in. I think that if I were to lie down, I would probably fall asleep in seconds. But not yet, not quite yet.

“5. I know that time is bound up with space. Time is the shadow of space. Space the shadow of time. I know that we live in the shadow of a shadow and that it returns to the light.” ~  Patrick Dubost, from “What I Know”

After leaving the airport I thought briefly of going to the cemetery, but I realized that such a move would probably do me in, and I would be right back where I was when I awoke yesterday. So I came home, and here I am, mulling over the concept of time and movement, and I have to wonder if a watch stops, does that mean that somewhere, time has stopped as well?

Conflicting Time, Chicago, IL, by dbking (FCC)

The old watches and clocks, the ones that we wound so carefully, cultivating time, harboring time, those time pieces—they were the keepers of the past and the present and the future. Now, the ones powered by batteries, those are merely mechanisms. There is nothing magical about them. I prefer the Roman numerals, the sweep of the second-hand to the digital display. My m-in-law had an old ship’s clock in her living room. It was made of brass, and it chimed the hours and the half hours, and that chime was, I believe, in the key of A, or at least that’s how it sounds in my memory. Eventually the spring mechanism broke, and the clock sat there idly, but its presence was a constant reminder of the hours that it had kept, and the time that had passed in that room.

I have an old watch that belonged to my father. It’s a wind-up, but it no longer works. I have considered taking it to a jeweler to see if I can get it fixed. It’s not a valuable watch, except to me. It has the imprint of my father’s wrist on the inside of the olive green leather strap, and I’m certain that it retains the memory of his DNA. Wearing it is like wearing a piece of him, like I’m sharing an afternoon with him, and he’s making me a cup of tea.

Whenever my father, for whom English was a second language—but he spoke it very well, more properly than my mother—whenever he left for one of his trips somewhere in the world, the last thing that he would say to my mother and me was “See you when I gets back.” I know that he knew that the gets wasn’t correct, but I think that somewhere in time, that must have been how he said it the first time, and saying those same words each time he left was like a talisman.

So I will see Corey when he gets back.

More later. Peace.

Music by Mazzy Star, “Into Dust”

                   

For What Binds Us

There are names for what binds us:
strong forces, weak forces.
Look around, you can see them:
the skin that forms in a half-empty cup,
nails rusting into the places they join,
joints dovetailed on their own weight.
The way things stay so solidly
wherever they’ve been set down—
and gravity, scientists say, is weak.

And see how the flesh grows back
across a wound, with a great vehemence,
more strong
than the simple, untested surface before.
There’s a name for it on horses,
when it comes back darker and raised: proud flesh,

as all flesh,
is proud of its wounds, wears them
as honors given out after battle,
small triumphs pinned to the chest—

And when two people have loved each other
see how it is like a
scar between their bodies,
stronger, darker, and proud;
how the black cord makes of them a single fabric
that nothing can tear or mend.

~ Jane Hirshfield