We Are Not Alone

Dr. Max Planck

Dr. Max Planck (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What would it be like to be the mother of one of the world’s greatest thinkers?

First, you live an uneventful life in pre-Nazi Germany, married to Herman, a mattress salesman. You, Pauline, stay busy setting up household repeatedly, as your husband’s businesses often change. He settles into electrochemical manufacturing and you move again, after your son is born.

Nothing about this birth or your heritage foreshadows your son’s greatness. In fact, your family worries that he might be slow-witted. When his sister, born two years later, passes him in speech skills, you join the others’ alarm.

Eventually he talks, hesitantly, and you learn to accept life with an odd child who has his own timetable. During the “why” stage of development, one of his favorite questions is, “Why do we hurry?” He does everything slowly and people notice.

When his Uncle Jake brings your son a compass to entertain him during a childhood illness, it fills him with questions, even keeping him—and you—awake at night pondering invisible forces. He is five and admires all gadgets, seeming to have inherited his daddy’s skills, and enjoys jigsaw puzzles, mechanical toys, and card towers. You decide to trust his slowness does not come from low intelligence.

At age six, he receives beginner violin lessons, a gift that grows into a comfort and joy for him, a relief valve, and an avenue for the flow of ideas that he uses for the rest of his life.

You and your husband, secular Jews, place your son in a Catholic private grade school. You discover he dislikes organized schooling very much, and would rather spend time writing songs for his violin, or building models and mechanical contraptions.

His teachers consider him a difficult student. He questions the necessity of having teachers, at all, preferring the time he spends at home learning from his daddy’s mechanical and engineering friends.

He enters Germany’s collective school system at age ten and chafes within the system. Feeling motivated only by fear or force, he adopts distrust for authority in this unhappy place. His challenge of the status quo grows deeper. His grades are unimpressive.

To lure your son into learning, your husband’s friend, Max, tries high level textbooks, complete with weekly assignments. At last, the dormant intellectual pathways open and his rightful education begins, at home, in his spare time, after school.

Your son devours Euclid’s Elements and dubs it “that holy little geometry book.” He actually reads, understands, and enjoys the works of Kant. How your heart must love the old friend for making such improvements in your precious firstborn! This new stimulus ushers in a deeply religious time of your son’s life. He expresses himself by composing and playing on his violin, little songs of worship to God.

It was bound to happen—your husband’s business fails, due to the advancement of electrical technology. You must move again, this time to Italy, and with great apprehension, you leave your son behind to finish his education.

He is miserable, separated from his beloved family, fearing military enlistment, and dreading the environment of collective school, where teachers believe he will not amount to anything. He fills the days recalling textbooks borrowed from his friends and meditating on what frozen light would look like. At this time, he writes his first scientific paper on magnetism.

Finally, he cannot bear his life in Germany. At age fifteen, he flees to join his family abroad.

How shocked you are to see him on your doorstep, a dropout and draft evader! Your worries increase until he tests high enough in math and physics to gain admission to a Swiss university. His years of university study are a joy mixed with the old school troubles. Some of the brightest minds on earth are his music, hiking, and sailing friends. Because of cutting class to study on his own in his apartment, though, he finds few friends among the faculty.

One even prevents his employment after graduation.

Your husband is bankrupt. Your son has a reputation as unemployable. Anti-Semitism is mounting.

Finally, your son finds a small job that leaves him time to analyze his favorite topic—light. He publishes four papers on such subjects as the existence of atoms, and submits his doctoral paper. At first, the world ignores your son, but after one famous physicist notices him, the invitations to lecture come, and he rises to popularity.

He dreams of receiving a Nobel Prize.

Now famous, he suffers a painful blow—one of his colleagues steals his newest discoveries and receives credit for publishing them. This action tests his long-held pacifist beliefs, but he overcomes his bitterness.

The following years are a parade of your son’s greatness in the world. He moves to the United States to escape Hitler. Indeed, he and some of his scientist friends are on Hitler’s most-wanted list and his German publications are burned as contemptible “Jewish physics”.

In America, though forced to learn English, he enjoys complete popularity, is even welcomed to the White House. He purchases a quiet home in Princeton, and takes a position at the Institute of Advanced Study, which he loves for its lack of fraternities, football, grants, and degrees.

His expertise in the realm of sub-atomic science and his acquaintance with the President cause your son to write and inform the President of a fact not reported in American press: that Hitler has captured Czech uranium mines.

Laying aside his life-long pacifist beliefs, he rationalizes that a world under Nazism would be worse than a world at war.

He dedicates his remaining days to helping scientist friends escape Europe, championing peaceful uses for atomic energy, and quietly moving the science world ever forward.

Who is your famous son?

Enhanced by Zemanta

Do You Have Silver Ties?

An old friend and I have recently resumed our friendship, due to our moving very close to each other. We consider it a Providential thing.

I was enchanted with this property of ours, especially the many springs on it, one of which was dammed up to cause this very beautiful pond:

Our Pond

Our Pond

My friend moved to her place partly because of the amazingly beautiful creek running through the lower half of it:

My Friend's Creek

My Friend’s Creek

Recently, though, we learned that my tiny tributaries, including the run-off from my pond, all flow into her creek via this very small rivulet:

Coming down from my pond

Coming down from my pond

The End.


I hope you enjoyed these three shots of the silver thread that connects two friends.



Give Old Candles a New Beginning

All during the year, we burn lovely scented candles from several sources, and as each one grows too small to be safe, I dig out and save the last bit, in a zipper bag. For ages I did not know what to do with these candle bottoms, carefully removed from lovely jars and votive cups. They still smelled great and it seemed such a waste just to pitch them, although sometimes, I did.

Then I met a woman who knew what to do and my life changed. (And my candle hoard changed.) I began saving candle bottoms with a vengeance, even offering to clean up the jars and cups of friends, if I could have the remains.

Yes, I had more!

What do I do with them? I make one big candle and burn it to start off the year! Here is this year’s “starter” candle, made from last year’s candle bottoms, and sorry I’ve almost burned it all gone before this topic arose! Believe me, it almost overflowed with contents a few days ago:

Beginning again

Beginning again

So how do my friend and I do this? Simple!

  1. Anchor a dripless dinner candle in the bottom of a large candle jar, such as you see here. I do this by dropping a bit of melted wax into the center of the jar and pushing the candle down onto the melted drops. I hold it there until the melted drops set and will hold without me.
  2. Then I carefully set chunks, slices, shavings, and crumbles of old candle bottoms into the space between the center candle and the jar walls. I also use leftovers from tart warmers.
  3. Light the dinner candle and let it melt down, some, to hold the wax pieces in place when you move it around, and then let it cool. After that, you can let it burn as long as you like. It all will melt together and become one lovely, undefinable fragrance.

That’s all there is to it. It smells so lovely, reminiscent of all the fragrances I’ve loved in the past year. Mine are mostly outdoorsy scents such as pine, bayberry, or lavender. My friend calls hers “tuty fruity”.

But anyone can romance the last of last year by giving old candles a new beginning this way.

Have fun!


This time last year…

World Calendar

World Calendar (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

…I had just finished posting three essays on gifts. Lot of folks liked them, so, here they are again, easy to find, for you to enjoy.

Be a Gift

The Gift of Peace

The Gift of Poverty

The Gifts of the Magi

Then, the year before, a similar series, including the following:

The Best Gift Ever

The Gift of the Blue Mailbox

The Gift of Laundry

The Gift of Joy

And the year before that, I had just gotten into my series I call “An Anatomy of Pain“, which also appears on the page titled “Forgiveness FAQs“, above.

Y’all enjoy, now, y’hear?


Turn on the light!

Another WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge

Photos below text, this time.

I love antiques.

I guess because I am one.

My favorite era is the Craftsman Style era, when everything here was made here, with pride in craftsmanship.

Like this lamp, which still works.

I love the frankly simple style, complete with wooden finials, top and bottom.

I love the drum shade, which casts light on the ceiling for ambiance, and direct light for reading.

I love how although it houses two bulbs, they work independently and intuitively and gently and quietly.

I love that it also houses a clock, and that I’ve found a good, old-fashioned, USA-made, clock-repair person.

I love that it weighs about forty pounds (18 or so kg), so it cannot tip over.

I love how it is all browns.

Yes, I love American antiques, which may be one reason I love Thanksgiving more than any other holiday:

  • American
  • Crafted with care
  • Still works
  • Preserved over the ages
  • Simple
  • Casting light
  • Independent
  • Adaptable
  • Gentle
  • Quiet
  • Timely yet old-fashioned
  • Weighty
  • Invincible
  • Brown

I cannot wait for next year. It will be better yet.

Turn on the light.

Turn on the light.

Bottom finials on chains

Bottom finials on chains

Matching finial on shade.

Matching finial on shade.

Good light is so important.