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Reply To: Scientists and the art of telling a story



My Mother would have loved this!

She taught astronomy at Fernbank Science Center in Atlanta and was there in 1969 when NBC came down to cover Apollo 11.

Mother remembered seeing the lunar module through the big telescope at Fernbank. And she always loved or had a resonance with the moon…

(the symbolic Diana energy)

There are many other stories from this time in her life, which she shared with me…and in tradition of passing down tales orally…they stuck.

There was a poetry in them!

(not that I don’t have my own stories. I certainly do. Grin)

It is strange to some of my contemporaries, that I find such an affinity with stories before my time, especially as I went in a different path than my Mother. But she completely supported my journey.

My Mother continued to teach astronomy, physics and earth science at different high schools in the 60s.

(She also worked on computer punch cards at Lockheed where she met my Dad.)

In the 70s for a year, they both taught at the NC Cherokee Reservation.

Mother Astronomy and Dad high school math.

Will try to stray back upon the path

since it is tempting to go off into the weeds on tangents of other tales I LOVE  (ie Dad math, calculus, certified VW mechanic, lover of planes and occasional tuner of tap shoes! Or the story he read to one of his classes.)

Back to Mother’s story.

Mother continued to teach astronomy and give lectures on and off after I was born. She taught and lectured at schools, colleges and rotary clubs. And she had a small non for profit observatory built.

(She also loved J. Campbell.)

I remember open nights with friends family and school groups, who came to see an eclipse of the moon.

Before that and the light pollution, one went down to a darker field in town and she set up a Star Party for Halley’s Comet along with other astronomy enthusiasts.

And after…an Astrophotographer friend would visit some nights. They took a photo of the moon together. And he took photos of the Orion Nebula, the Pleiades, and the Rosette Nebula.

As for the science, my Mother told me of her experience working with one of the head astronomers at Fernbank. They measured Cepheid variables.
She showed me those charts decades later.

(Her other passion was art: paintings, portraits and sketches and indeed some of those paintings depicted the starry heavens, which she loved.)

She had the knowledge of Newtonian Physics and the other measurements and attributes of space. But just like the young woman you mention Stephen, the human connection was just as important to my Mother. She loved the experience of viewing the heavens and how that resonates in the heart…the way a finely tuned telescope can reveal the depth and magnitude of objects just barely visible to the naked eye, whether it’s the rings of Saturn or the Orion Nebula.
I know people, who after having seen those views as children  (and sometimes adults), thanks to my Mother, have never forgotten.
Their minds were opened to this other vastness and beauty wheeling above our heads.
There was a Rilke poem Mother loved, which began, “I have faith in nights.”

This was it exactly!

How could one not feel a transcendent experience?

The days of our observatory were like a fable within our life experience. But would be a tale for another time.

I went on in dance and poetry and later music…but can remember those cold, clear nights as my Mother pointed out different constellations or as we watched a rain of meteors sometimes bright as car head lamps occasionally hissing through the atmosphere like small dragons.
We would bundle up in winter clothes and blankets and sit outside holding hot chocolate or coffee in thermal mugs. And stay ‘til sunrise.

As for those poetic stories, which surround the time before and during Apollo 11…cannot forget them either,(maybe because it was also the time my parents met.)

It might begin once upon a time, there was a young woman who loved the stars, art and horses. She drove her Little Black VW bug to college (Agnes Scott.) The leaves were turning red and the Beatles’ “Michelle,” came on the radio…(and this would open into all those other stories from her astronomy Prof. to hearing Robert Frost and briefly shaking hands with MLK, when both men came to her college. (Not to mention hearing a Beatles bootleg.) But all would lead to Fernbank and meeting my Dad.
The rest is history.

So when I bundle up in winter coat and blankets and stay out from midnight until sunrise on a cold November night and count the Leonids (not as spectacular as the Fall of ‘98) but still stunningly beautiful,

I think of my Mother (and Dad) and raise my thermal mug of hot chocolate or coffee to the starry heavens and the music of the spheres.