Thursday, April 14, 2005

String theory,indeed!

That last entry is a clear example of the lengths to which the mind will go to escape the problems in the foreground. Waaaaaay out in space this time! Denial goes by many names and in this case I was able to shoot myself into another universe with all of the theoretical wonder physics can offer. Anything to avoid having to search for that elusive scrap of paper upon which the name and phone number of Dorian's possible new placement is written. Wild!

Okay, so now that it's almost two o'clock in the afternoon on the day after my great space travel adventure, I'll close down MAC and work on the desk clutter ... .

But before I do that (see, I'm still stalling), I need to acknowledge that there was word from a mutual friend that my Bob is appearing in a show on KUSP in Santa Cruz this Saturday. Not sure of the call letters, but believe it may be the PBS affiliate there. Check out the link over on the lefthand side of this blog. His web site may have the details, though I'm not sure how much time he puts into keeping it updated these days.

Also, under California's Black Pioneers (also linked over there) there are some truly fascinating additions to the web site. Learned from Cousin Doug in a conversation the other day that one of our ancestors was a bootmaker in San Francisco during the Gold Rush days. So much history -- so little time left in which to make more (for some of us).

Will meet with the board of the Ma'at Academy tonight (environmentalists) and will fill y'all in on that next week sometime. Good folks on a mission.

And in the meantime, I'll try to forget that I truly must take seriously the need to release Dorian to her own future -- and that I must not wait until there's another crisis and we're torn apart even more painfully than before. It was like trying to separate the skin from a green peach ... .

That must not be allowed to happen... .

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

String theory?

I'm fascinated by physics, a carryover from my days as a faculty wife and all 'roun cocktail party intellectual in the 70s and 80s. The space probes draw me in and chew me up with every new landing attempt. I'm known to lose days on end while watching as if in a trance -- images on the small screen of pretty ordinary rocks and rills that I could probably see if I just hiked a few miles up into the nearby hills. You can imagine the joy when on a recent Citroen Club outing with Tom I found myself sitting in the Space Science Center at the Ames Laboratories in Mountain View. The films and exhibits brought the Mars probes into consciousness as nothing else could have. The chance to hear lectures from those who were a part of the great adventure was truly mind-boggling.

Last night I watched a PBS-NOVA special on the String Theory. It didn't take very long to find myself hanging on by my fingernails to keep up. I have tried in the past to barely fathom Stephen Hawking's mechanical voice that tended to add to the futuristic edge of his words. I have a fragmented understanding of Einstein's General Theory of Relativity, but somewhere along the way Quantum Theory entered from stage left and there was a "Big Bang" of my right cortex! Now we're dealing with Ed Witten and his "M Theory" involving "gravitons." According to the narrator, no one knows what the "M" stands for, but Witten teasingly implies that it may mean "murky." And I was just beginning to deal with quarks and opened-ended and/or enclosed strings, and none too successfully at that.

Einstein's work upon which so much of the understanding of the universe depends was incomplete. Those who arrived at the Big Bang theory of beginnings were having to yield to the Quantum theorists -- the two theories were in conflict and could not be reconciled. There are many who've now come to believe that Witten is Einstein's successor and that requires a re-evaluation of all that has gone before.

It is in these instances that I so regret growing old. Most of the time my age is simply a fact of being and evidence of movement toward non-existence ... but there are times when I begin to see how bitterly I resent having been born just a few years too soon ...

Having acquired some reasonable understanding of 5 then 10 dimensions, the scientific world is now faced with at least 21 -- and according to some, the number is infinite and probably involves multiple parallel universes; universes that are in the continual process of banging into one another and being absorbed ... the "Big Bang" gone wild!

The images, matrixes, diagrams and analogies incorporated into the NOVA show were so fabulous that even this struggling aging brain was able to hang in and pull it together -- if precariously.

There is no longer a single exciting String Theory, but at least five! That being so, the world of physics is back to square one. Except for Whitten (Witten?) who has put forth the hypothesis that the five are simply complex aspects of the original one. And now we're off to the races again. The prize of discovery will surely be revealed within the next dozen or so years. Scientists are out after the Holy Grail of physics with competing laboratories working at breakneck speed both here and in Switzerland.

It was the kind of presentation that begs to be bought on video or DVD and added to the collection of fascinating studies I will watch again some day but rarely do. The world keeps revealing itself in hints that offer promise of answers to mysteries now just barely beyond our reach.

God stuff?

(...and capitalizing the god word in this case feels right. It all depends upon how one interprets it, I suspect.)

Do you suppose ... ?

that a lot of the angst that I'm feeling (and interpreting as the natural depression that heralds gittin' ole) is really masking a new bout of separation anxiety involving Dorian? We worked for her entire lifetime to prepare her for my death and her survival without me. We had it nailed for some years there, but then the social system began to fray at the edges from state budget cutbacks and to finally collapse totally. Bringing her home to live with me for the first time since she was in her pre-teens less than a year ago was a defeat for us both. Over the past months I've evolved from "super-friend" back into "mom" with a vengeance. Try as I might, the inevitable has happened and I find myself fixing her breakfast, even brushing her hair and packing her lunches for her days at NIAD. I worry and fret when she hasn't returned from the mall when expected, and have become dependent upon our constant cell phone connections even when off on a tryst with Tom. It's crazy! And there isn't the time to do it all again.

On the Monday before I left to visit to Mendocino, I'd called her case manager to say that I was ready to begin to look at living alternatives for her; that we were beginning to seriously regress; and that someone needs to help me to move us toward a new separation. When I returned (and after a thought-filled 3-hour drive, alone) I found myself pushing all such thoughts to the back of my mind and ignoring the need to act on it. The pressure had been eased by my 2-day respite and I felt rested.

Her case manager had agreed that we needed to begin to look at next moves. It seems that Dorian had given her therapist a call sometime the week before when we were battling over her spending habits and her inability to resist the cellphone hawkers. She wants her independence back. We both need our lives back to live out each in our own way. I cannot protect her by robbing her of the chance to continue to grow and learn. She will live beyond me. With or without the ideal social support system I tried so hard to tap her into, it is her destiny to live through the risks that her disabilities manifest, and no amount of motherly protection can change any of that.

This truly capable professional had given me the telephone number of a possible group home that is near enough to NIAD so that her art programs can go on uninterrupted. That was over a week ago, the day before I left for a 2-day visit to Mendocino. I promised to give the referral a call just as soon as I returned (on Thursday). I have since lost the phone number and am reluctant to ask for it again. It's buried here on my desk someplace. It was written on the back of a scrap of paper that I no longer will recognize... All very predictable.

Mentally, I'm thrown back to the time when I first experienced the pain of sending her off to The Cedars, a residential program in beautiful Marin County -- and it's all refreshed and achingly familiar. It's as though all those feelings were carefully stored in some remote part of my mind and are back to taunt me enough to crowd out everything else. We lived through it again when -- at 13 I hired someone to fly with her down to St. Vincent's Academy in Santa Barbara because I couldn't bear to do it. I knew that the rules of that wonderful school dictated that I could not contact her for the first 6 weeks, and my awareness of the pain that would surely cause was almost unbearable. I've never recovered from the guilt I felt for the trickery involved. But we both survived and she thrived in that setting with those loving nuns.

Dorian has by now pretty much forgotten about having made the call to her therapist in anger and I've had a few days of respite with Tom. The sense of urgency has passed. There is little incentive to make that call now, but I surely recognize the need to find that vital scrap of paper and proceed with plans to give her back what little autonomy that I can by letting her move away and back into her own life.

I'd never have guessed that it might be even more difficult this time. Having now lived with her underfoot for almost a year, I've become aware of just how vulnerable she is, and of how serious are her mental deficits. The risk factors are huge. The guilelessness and natural generosity of the retarded make her a prime target for those who would do her harm. And -- my trust in the ability of "The World" to protect her has diminished over the years, and I have little left to comfort me now. When we were both much younger; when I felt my own inadequacies so much less and trusted "The World's" systems so much more, it was far easier. I've lost my innocence. She's doomed to exist in her's.

Maybe, having written out the words, I can go about the business of retrieving that important link to our much-needed freedom and make those calls. It will be only the prelude since the goal is to begin to investigate possibilities now and -- hopefully -- to have her resettled in early summer.

Wish us luck,

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Oh how I hate to get up in the mawnin'!

Just wasn't designed for leisure. I need work to do; meaningful work. The full effects of this retirement that I've drifted into without purpose is weighing heavily on my psyche. There are added distortions caused by the shift from standard to daylight savings time to contend with. It all feels surreal...I'm becoming more and more sensitive to the speeding up of time; and of how finite. During early April it's hard to remember that time has never been a certainty, only a temporary gift to be used well and treasured as precious.

It's gradually dawning that my work life is over now, and that I'm needing to structure my days differently, or structure them at all. I've lost the rudder on this glider so haphazardly built over the past half-century, or, gotten myself hung up in the web of indecision from which there may be no escape. Morning dawns then night falls with little to distinguish them one from the other. I seem to be moving between Jon Stewart shows and trips to Albertsons for groceries. That's simply not enough upon which to hang a life! I need to keep reminding myself that I could be spending my time moving between the doctor's office and the pharmacy; and of what a blessing it is that I'm not.

Oh there's this new man in my life; and that lends some spark to the days -- but at our advanced ages the relationship is non-directional. Not even sure what that means, except that the word seems fitting for where we are in time and space. He's warm and interesting and undemanding and we're settling into a warm and comfortable relationship of sharing time and creating new memories at a time when one might have expected yesterdays to have replaced all of the tomorrows. Not so, apparently. And there are very different expectations evolving. Instead of checking out my Palm Pilot for the next scheduled meeting of the civic whatever or the committee to overturn the most recent attempt by the governor to ... I find the little beeping signal means that I've punched in "4/12/05 -- the wild rhododendrons will be in full bloom in the pigmy woods at Little River." Maybe that's good; a sign that my priorities are changing dramatically, and my values along with them. However, I'm not at all sure that the rapid turnaround won't cause whiplash or that it will come in time for me to redirect myself before the abyss!

Watched a part of the Bolton confirmation hearing on CSPAN before dropping off to sleep last night, and found that some of the fear for the nation's survival has been replaced by boredom and dangerously-lowered expectations of national leadership. I simply cannot imagine the amount of slippage that has occurred in governance, and of how effectively mediocrity has replaced excellence over a lifetime. Or is it only the past 30 years -- those years when cleverness (a la Carl Rove et al) resoundingly trounced statemanship, and the country and the marketplace were taken over by Corporatism? Fascism? Could it also be that as an octogenarian I bring more accuracy and wisdom to my assessments of that leadership? Maybe we could do worse than to find ourselves being led by Hal the Computer, after all, since at least it might prove to be more even-handed in doling out power and privilege, and less subject to the arrogance and greed of human power out of control.

Maybe, along with the growing ennui, I'm beginning to sense inevitability in our decaying social and political systems. And even while writing those words I find myself wondering if I'm not expressing an attitude common to elders as we look back upon where we've traveled over time; while more and more aware that we've probably given all that we can and that our presence on the earth may have made little real difference in the end.

If this is the direction that my mind will gradually settle into, maybe the entrophy of the aging process is finally boring its way into my being. If so, the glimpses of the future are not what I'd hoped for. Will there simply be less and less to celebrate and more to mourn as the days pile on?

Oh god, I hope not... .

(Wonder if I'll live long enough to be willing to type god with an uppercase "G"?)