Saturday, May 29, 2004

Scattered pickings . . .

The little weeds in my window boxes are beginning to form a small apple-green hedge.

The email message I had sent an old friend asking for a medical referral has sprung comet tails and been forwarded, forwarded, it's Chinese whispers in spades, three people are now committed to dining together some evening soon. Does this have anything to do with me? I am giggling helplessly.

I am the catalyzer, the touchstone. None of my life actually has much to do with me personally.

Did I ever tell you the story about hocking all my valuable belongings, when I was down and out in Paris in my youth and needed a sudden spurt of money for something? No? Well, one of these days I threaten to tell it.

Today, the story is about crystallization: how time and space pulls together events, and a shock of a single moment manifests some phenomenon which appears as if out of nowhere.

I went to school in Ramsgate, England, and we had a biology teacher called Miss Bates. Biology also included botany and chemistry, it should really have been called general science.

One week, Miss Bates announced that we were going to make crystals. There were enough Bunsen burners in the lab for every one in the class, and we each had our own beaker and proceeded to cook up our individual solutions.

"Now put your names on your beakers," said Miss Bates, "And put your beakers very, very carefully down on a shelf in the cupboard, and next week, you will all of you have a crystal in the bottom of your beaker."

The next week, everyone had a crystal except me. I was furious. "Come look at this!" I cried to Miss Bates, "How come I have nothing in my beaker? I did everything, just like you said. I measured everything, exactly as you said. I cooked it, just like you said. I set it down carefully, just like you said." I was indignant.

She was a cold fish. She took my beaker from my hand, without a word. She lifted it up to her face, and looked through it. "I don't know..." She mused. The whole class was watching.

Then, she took a pencil, and tapped hard three times on the side of my beaker. Suddenly, a HUGE crystal materialized.


I had the biggest, bestest, crystal of them all. "How did that happen?" I wanted to know.

Miss Bates explained that there had to be a shock for the crystallization to take place. "So, why did you say to set the beakers down so carefully?" I wanted to know.

"Nobody is THAT careful," Miss Bates retorted.
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