In search of story


July 8.22: Coping, but barely

A tenth of a billionth of a second.

My brain spins without traction

to comprehend the transience

of such unknowable fraction.

How can such a measure

of time, that slippery eel,

have meaning to poor mortal

like me, the math schlemiel?

Or maybe it’s not numbers

that anaesthetize my mind,

but rather awe and wonder

at our need to seek and find.

Perspectives thus established,

we see our own existence

in terms of what we don’t know

and potential obsolescence.

Are we really that important,

such tiny human spatter,

in view of proton particles

and abysses of dark matter?

I tend to think we are

though I’ve no idea why;

we blow each other up,

and pollute the sea and sky.

Microscope and telescope,

bacterium to star,

but all we have are stories

to explain the way we are.



I’ve been seeing articles, dear reader, about the Large Hadron Collider and the pursuit of dark matter. It’s all dark matter to me, but I do try for some meager understanding. I cannot wrap my mind around such a thing as a tenth of a billionth of a second, but I can marvel at it. As I marvel, it becomes personal. My place in this universe? I’m working on that.

My thanks to Juliana Kim for her NPR article that reminded me of perspective.



Vagaries in Gestation: On Being Linear, Part l, 3.12.17

Tuberose © Maureen O’Hern

Did you ever hear words that stopped your breath? I did: our instructor told us that we had to draw without lines. I was a simple English major, with my toe tentatively dipped in the waters of botanical illustration, and I was frozen in that position, rethinking my commitment. Was she serious?

She went on: “There are no lines in Nature.” That helped me not at all. But I left my toe in. What ensued was slavish hunching over a drawing table with neurotically-controlled lighting, racing a life cycle, capturing it with graphite before it drooped and its shadows changed.

Yes, shadows. Not lines. I had to work with magnifying lenses clipped to my glasses, so demanding was the technique. What was perceived in my drawing as a line was in reality an obsessively nuanced shadow, pristine in its effect, subtle in its application. Deadly to my neck.

Thus did I become enamored of buds. I had, of course, marveled at buds as a gardener, but that was not the same as falling into them as a botanical artist. Their myriad tiny hills and vales had gone unnoticed by me  — how could I never have perceived that there was not the vestige of a line in those tiny becomings?

Becoming. The meaning of the bud.  That moment when something changes in us, when, for instance, someone tells us there are no lines.

Did I know that living — becoming — was not a simple matter of black and white, of sharp, clear line? Of course I did, but that was mere knowledge. Knowledge isn’t the same as wonder. One can follow a line to knowledge, but wonder awaits in shadows.




Please do not copy my drawings or use them in any way.

Vagaries in Gestation