I delivered my first eulogy this week. I would much prefer to have my uncle and godfather back among the living, in good health, but the sequence of life events leads in one direction. If you knew Charles Johnson and were not able to attend his memorial service, I invite you to read his eulogy.
“There can be no doubt that a society rooted in the soil is more stable than one rooted in pavements.”
– Aldo Leopold
News of sick relatives, sick parents, sick young children of good friends, leads to thoughts of illnesses that befall us, and of the falls we are apt to take ourselves. When something falls at a distance, as a tree in the woods, its falling makes me wonder about my being there to hear the sound. Read my poem Tree for an idea of how these thoughts play out.
This week I was pleased to see my poem Science, Fiction published in “Dark Matter: A Journal of Speculative Writing.” Check out my Poetry page for a link to the journal. My poem appears on page 47 — which coincidentally is my age at the time of publication. But I digress.
If you browse through the journal, I suspect you will find some of the works to be more speculative than others. My poem is speculative, but rational. It is the result of wondering about the degree of creativity that may be possible in mathematical equations. We are familiar with fiction in the written word; does mathematics offer fictional representation as well? In other words, does every logical formula provide a factual representation of reality, or can a formula make perfect logical sense, yet represent a complete fabrication? Think of what Hamlet told Horatio: “There is more in heaven and earth than in all your philosophy.” Surely we encounter limitations and shortcomings in all our representative languages that we can’t even know. Our best guesses fall short. Sometimes they are wrong, in which case they are well-meaning fiction. As we know from literature, fiction can be very informative, but it’s still fiction. Does mathematics offer fiction? I think it must. This poem is one way of saying so.
Although I have thought about writing quite a bit in recent months and actually written a little, none of the finished work has landed here. Yesterday, however, a true hero left us. Amid the many fallen “heroes” of sports and political fame, Neil Armstrong was a man of great integrity and discipline. He was a man of stature, and his one small step inspired a generation of us to dream of flying long before popular movies glorified the space program or naval aviation. Neil Armstrong was a hero. He was certainly one of mine. Please see my poem Armstrong, a small tribute to a modest giant of American history.
A new memoir piece, Tsali, describes a mountain biking trip Debbie and I took in western North Carolina in the summer of 2011. It is set in a recreation area adjacent to the Great Smoky Mountains that is rich in history, though the history is not always evident. Christopher Camuto describes the region well in his excellent book Another Country: Journeying Toward the Cherokee Mountains. Ron Rash also describes the area in his novel Serena, and Charles Frazier mentions the historic figure for whom the modern recreation area is named in his author’s note to Thirteen Moons, as incidents involving the historic figure served as the basis for an episode in the novel. I hope this post and my brief essay might lead you to one of those writers, or to the Tsali Recreation Area itself. If you go, enjoy the ride.