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Mom and cosmology March 12, 2009

Posted by Jenny in memoir, nature, philosophy, poetry.
Tags: , , , , ,
Barbara Bennett

Barbara Bennett

Many people remember my mother as a nice little old lady.  And they are right—she was nice, she was little (she grew steadily smaller over the last 10 or 15 years of her life), and one certainly can’t dispute the fact that, at the end, she was old.  When she departed on July 3, 2007, her age was 84.

It was just that when you chatted with her over a cup of tea, she might want to talk about the philosophy of science or a new development in astronomy rather than Florida vacations or grandchildren.  This was not only an unusual interest;  it was one that she had come to relatively late, in mid-life, in the course of her perpetual exploration of the world of ideas.  Her interest could not be explained by the usual determinants of childhood experience, college education, or any circumstance involving friends or acquaintances.  There was, perhaps, a larger proportion of philosophers than usual within the extended family—my uncle was a philosophy professor—but by and large she came to the subject independently.

In her 50s and into her 60s, she attended university courses in the philosophy of science, eventually publishing a paper about epistemological realism in the context of quantum physics.  And, having a mind that always sought connections—those shining moments of insight that come from linking things never before thought of together—she made a connection between the philosophy of science and the subject of nature, her other enduring interest.  And she wrote poems about that connection.

Some who read her poems did not like the way she connected the concrete and the abstract.  I think the real problem was that those readers simply had no taste for the abstract.  They told my mother that she would do better to write about personal experiences—something more confessional, perhaps.

I am glad to say that she rejected that advice.

I would like to share a poem written by my mother.   It is called “A New Cosmology.”

By the pulsing light of Cepheids

lucid as in crystal micro-time,

shocked astronomers weigh the age of the farthest

stars and find in wild illogic they

are older even than the universe.

What stars are these that pass like fossil seeds

ambered in archaic time between

extinction and rebirth?

The world collapsing

into darkness, a new time, another

universe will gather up the seeds

of stars, and over eons open out

and flower to become a painted cosmos

never dreamed before.  Then what frail

language will be scribbled on the sky

to read the enigmatic stars anew?

Galazy clusters seen through Hubble telescope

Galaxy clusters seen through Hubble telescope


1. graceofwynn - March 12, 2009

Thanks for sharing. This is a very unique poem, its unlike anything I have ever read. I wonder where you Mom is exploring now-she sounds very intelligent and lively but also having a child’s wanderlust.

2. DaffodilPlanter - March 13, 2009

How many bloggers ever get to title a post “Mom and Cosmology”? This is a lovely tribute and a perfect setting for her amazing poem.

3. kaslkaos - March 13, 2009

Wow. I am so glad I read this. That’s beautiful poetry. I’m sorry I can’t say anything eloquent to match. Leaves me speechless is not a cliche right now.

4. penandspindle - March 14, 2009

Provocative. Have you ever thought to publish your mother’s poetry as an ebook or DVD? Our world of skim-the-surface needs to have intuitive poetry returned to it.

5. Barb - March 14, 2009

Thanks, Sue. I miss your mom. I know she talked to my dad a lot about her philosophical interests, and I think he was involved with the journal she published that paper in. But as you say, he was not doing that sort of work at all.

I have a complete set of the poems she sent to my mother. (She sent each one, so there would be an archive in case you didn’t want to keep one.) I suspect you have a set, too, but if you don’t I would be happy to send them to you.

I posted the picture and a link to this entry on my Facebook page.

6. Jenny - March 15, 2009

Thank you, everyone, for your comments. Your appreciation of my mother’s poetry reminds me of something I have always found comforting–the idea that the people we cherish live on through our memories of them. That is my definition of immortality.

7. Peter Bennett - March 15, 2009

Very nice piece. I always thought Mom liked to have things “nailed down”, but this poem shows a definite appreciation of the mystical side of things. It creates a sense of awe and wonder in me that feels spiritual.

8. Roberta Laidman - March 17, 2009

I am shaken and left bereft.

9. Stephen Dirrane - March 17, 2009

So clean and new, real, stunning and beautiful.

10. Alisa Fineman - March 17, 2009

We are grateful that Janet sent this our way. I appreicate how it points us toward the awe-filled and infinite. What a great and reflective mind to capture such wonder and beauty and timelessness that Barbara continues to share with this world.

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