Monday, April 24, 2017

Droppin' Science

On Saturday, I went to the March for Science in Washington, DC.

Though I am the kid of a physics professor, my own field of study was Theatre (sic/ugh) and Dance (also sic; it was that small a department), and I became a secretary. But dad's influence in my life endures, of course. And also I care that our country should not impose upon itself the very Dark Ages I'm always saying are a myth.

The day before the March, I drove up to Maryland to stay with my dearest and oldest friend, The Elfin One, and her family. She and I went on our own, but not before enjoying some pretty wonderful family adventures. Starring rather a lot of science!

TEO was always the smart one between us. No very great trick when it comes to ME, of course, but she is and always was natively brilliant, and is a teacher (not of science).

Almost within minutes of my arrival at their home, the heavens burst forth, and we had a ten-minute, torrential storm. After eight-ish traffic jams making a 100-mile trip drag on for upwards of four hours, I was glad I'd missed being IN it, by that much. Still, I do enjoy a good storm. And this one came with HAIL.

Younger son and mom and I went outside to investigate the hailstones when it subsided and gave way to more sunshine than I'd seen all day. I was the one who explained the rising/falling cycle of updrafts and accumulation creating the layers of a hailstone, almost like dendrochronological rings. I also pointed out to them how the steam was rising off the street, using the spiff sunglasses TEO had commented on. Because they are polarized glasses, they cut glare. I didn't explain the mechanics of light waves and the glasses' control of same via polarization, but they're still a gee-whiz exemplar of science.

For the evening, we had a wonderful meal prepared by TEO's husband (science has proven, men can cook), and then he read one of the kids' books out loud for a while as we made our signs. I got a bit of permanent marker on my nail. It is still present, three days on. Science!

The next morning, I wore a shirt of my dad's from CEBAF - the original name of Jefferson Labs (or "Jeffy Labs" as the geeks I personally knew liked to call it when they changed the name), the national Accelerator. The shirt is a double-bonus for me, as it dates to 1991, and is Star Trek themed. Well, Star Trek: The Next Generation (probably my least favorite of the series), but it was all we had at the time.

I also wore a necklace with a few charms on it, one of which is the companion to a pair of rutilated quartz charms I once gave to my nieces. TEO thought at first this little bauble might be a tiny bottle with something in it, perhaps something of my dad (she may have feared I had his ashes with me, come to think of it, but I would not have brought that into their home, they are Jewish and that would be unguestmanslike of me). So we showed this to the boys, and I explained inclusions and we talked about how rocks have veins, something like our bodies do.

So before we even got to the march, we were SEEING (and spontaneously - we did not have to force science into the visit; and kids do get into these odd and neato things) plentiful wonders courtesy of scientific understanding.

On the Metro, TEO and I immediately found companions with the same destination. We chatted and shared signs, and this went on all the way into the city.

Off the train, it was immediately mucky. So it goes. We headed along the wide walkways I haven't trod in probably thirty years, joyously surrounded by others going the same way. That the one guy who liked our signs and suggested we get our pictures taken with the sole religious protester we saw all day looked like Pretty Caucasian Jesus was a good laugh, and of course that's my type anyway, so we enjoyed a little irony and I got to enjoy a pretty face to boot.

As for religion ... well. My dad told me all my life, he was a scientist precisely BECAUSE what G-d had built was so exciting to him he felt it was worthy to study it. Take that, kids I went to grade school with, who used to tell me my dad couldn't believe in G-d because he was a scientist. Also: ugh.

In fact, I think there were many people of faith (read: not just Protestant Christians) there. More than anything else, there were people of integrity. Belief in something greater than themselves, whether that wears the face anyone recognizes as G-d or not. We were photographed many times, and we photographed others. We saw a Nichelle Nichols sign and a Carrie Fisher sign (interestingly, I saw no male Trek or Wars character/actor signs - but I do not call my study of these signs any indicator of conclusions to be drawn; the minuscule sample would not stand up to peer review). We saw only one Lorax, but it was a good Lorax, complete with his sign, "UNLESS" ...

TEO and I were there for hours, and in the cold and rain we heard the voice of a child from Flint, Michigan, the passion of Maya Lin, good music - many voices. Our signs wilted and drooped, but stayed intact for us bravely throughout the deluge and beyond. We finally "retired" them at The Castle at the Smithsonian. Our feet were profoundly wet, and pants up to the knees. Mine were wet down to the knees as well, and my jacket (unfortunately covering up that CEBAF tee) was all but pointless by the end of the day. TEO recalled ruefully the science of wet denim and rolled up her jeans, to minimal effect. My own pants grew from about a 31" inseam, weighted down by water and textile fatigue, to something on the order of a 34". My shoes were not even dry by the time I returned home late that night. My socks were sodden. But Penelope (and her inquiring scientific nose) was fascinated by the scents of Washington, of rain, of the thousands of people's footsteps we had shared, and the several dogs we saw as well, all collected in my clothes.

But we had a brave and a reaffirming few hours. We were inspired, and people said nice things to us about our signs, and just generally. People can be lovely things, sometimes.

And so, because there was no food inside the officially-barriered confines of The March itself, when we grew hungry, we reviewed our feelings about what we'd set out to accomplish, and agreed: "we've checked the boxes." It was time to leave, even though the actual marching part was about to begin. New troops were still arriving. We exited, to leave them space. We went back up the Metro a ways, and found a good, warm sandwich to eat. And then made our way home, to shuck wet things and have a lie-down.

This is the first event I have gone to, since the election. TEO had been to the Women's March, with that younger son of hers, and many of my friends and my beloved family have been to many. I shared this event with all of them, cities away, even a continent away (one Washington and another; nicely bookended?), and perhaps most importantly my oldest, OLDEST (hee) friend and I were able to embark on this together.


MLG said...

Thank you for this lovely description of our time together. I am so grateful that we shared it! And, hey, I'm not THAT old!

DLM said...

Hee - am I going to have to ditch the TEO nickname and call you MLG now? Thank you for coming by and not lurking - and for all the lovely time and food and science.

And I'm always older than you. We can talk about the ever-decreasing extent of our age DIFFERENCE, but the magic of quantum advancement is you'll never catch up, no matter how small it becomes. :)

MLG said...

Please do not ditch TEO! It's my favorite nickname, possibly ever. But am I allowed to use it of myself? It seems somehow . . . presumptuous.

DLM said...

I would never kill of The Elfin One, of course. And I gave it to ya! Yours to do with as you like. And better than some of our older nicknames!!