Drafting–Philadelphia > Newark

Molly returned to the window seat across the aisle from Millie. She knew her mother would want to sleep during the two hour ride to Newark. By now, Molly was keen to Millie’s symptoms. They’d been evident as they walked across the parking lot to the bus: shoulders sagging, head lowered, eyes dull, listless, and staring straight-ahead but drooping downward.

For the next thirty minutes, Molly tried to meditate, like Tracey had described. Looking out the window, just taking in the world, letting things be as they are, not trying to force anything, not striving, not clinging. Molly kept her eyes open, and after a quick absorption of the thickening snow, followed the Delaware River as it wound northeasterly, staying an almost-equal distance from the route the bus was taking. This changed in Eddington when the river receded and diverged from the route onward to Newark, eventually disappearing from Molly’s view entirely.

Her attention turned to Alisha and how their lives had been like the river. Before it diverged. For six and a half years, since the first week of Kindergarten at Harvard Elementary School, they’d remained close, always an equal distance from each other. At first, they’d been satisfied with dolls, Harry Potter books, and Breyer’s Chocolate ice-cream. Then, came Taylor Swift and her music. This, along with Ms. Thorton and her zealousness for writing, had ignited their imagination, opening their world to figuratively traveling the world and experiencing a panoply of unending adventures, including bull-fighters, mountain climbers, inn-keepers, and artists of all stripes.

Breathing deeply, Molly followed the rise and fall of her breath deep into her stomach. As much as she tried to resist the sad thought of losing her best friend, there she was. The image was as real as the Delaware River, now unseen, yet still flowing. Alisha was sitting inside her room at that silly pink desk, Taylor Swifts “Daylight” playing softly in the background. Alisha finished reading a poem, maybe “Dirge Without Music” by Edna St. Vincent Millay. Now, the outwardly unattractive but inwardly beautiful sixth grader was striving to create her own poem. Molly was certain her best friend was drafting a dirge, one matching Millay’s in thrust and meaning, but using different words, rhythms, and symmetry.

Molly lost the battle. She couldn’t resist. After staring a long minute at her sleeping mother, she reached into her bag for the iPhone Alistair had given her, whispering, “I have to talk to Alisha.” Molly looked again at her mother. She was in her soft-puffing mode which meant she was in a deep sleep.

Molly hoped Alisha was home and not out somewhere with her parents as she often was on Saturday afternoons. “Me here, you here too.” For the past year this had become a common way for Molly and Alisha to begin their text communications. They were more than best friends. No matter the physical distance between them, they were one person with two minds and a single heart.

Alisha replied almost instantly. “Me here, you here too.” There was a slight pause before she sent a follow-up text. “Always.”

“Update. We’re still on this damn bus. Next stop, Newark, NJ.”

“Update. Trying to write a combination romance and nature scene, set at a beautiful waterfall. The lovers—male/female, male/male, or female/female I’m not sure, but it doesn’t matter since they are in love—stay there for forty years until they die, but the time seems like one hour.”

Molly responded with a memorized quote from Millay’s “Dirge Without Music.” “They are gone. They are gone to feed the roses. Elegant and curled Is the blossom. Fragrant is the blossom. I know. But I do not approve. More precious was the light in your eyes than all the roses in the world.”

“Wow. I wish you were here. I miss you so much.”

“Me too.” Molly thought of Alisha’s room. The giant poster bed, the entertainment center her father had built, the matching bean-bag chairs, the orange sun poster pinned across the window, and the floor-to-ceiling bookshelves surrounding her pink desk. Alisha collected many times more fantasy books than Molly collected stuffed animals.

After sending a ‘question’ emoji, Alisha typed, “I know you carried your stuffed animals, but which one is in your book bag? Right now.”

“Mom packed them in garbage bags and thought it best not to try and transport them by bus. The garage folks where we left our Sentra are going to ship them to New York. Hope they don’t get lost.”

“Bummer. Too trusting. Why not mail them yourself?” Alisha was always thinking.

“I suggested the same but mom wanted to go to the bus station early. Plus, she thought Ray & his wife, the garage owners, were good people. Really, I think Mom believed them because of their twin girls.”


“I know, I know. Doesn’t compute but you know mom. But, anyway, Ray was nice and made me wish he was my father.”

Alisha closed her notebook, walked to her bed, reclined, and continued typing. “You’ve said the same about my wonderful dad. So, which one is it?”

Molly sent the face without a mouth emoji, and typed. “I repeat for the millionth time, be thankful you have such a caring, compassionate, respectful, and engaging father. But no, not me. All I have, other than hatred for the Monster, is sadness, loneliness, disappointment, and emptiness.”

Alisha believed it her life mission to placate and comfort Molly, hoping her humble but beautiful friend wouldn’t forget her when she became a model or movie star. “Then keep trying to find your REAL father. Like I’ve said, the reason he’s not around might be your mom’s fault.”

Although she couldn’t agree, Molly had a feeling her biological father cared for her mother. Michael was his name but that’s all she’d been told. And, that he was from somewhere in Alabama. “Mom said she’d tell me the whole story when I turn 13. That’s seven months, a lifetime. BTW, I can’t imagine it’s mom’s fault.”

“Like Mom and Dad say, ‘it takes two to tango.’ Question. If your father’s so great, why doesn’t he contact you? Maybe, at least, send you a Christmas card like he does your mother?”

“Mom says it’s probably guilt. Like I’ve told you, he got married in 2012, had a son in 2013, and then his wife died in an auto accident in 2015.”

These type conversations were common and frequent. Real friends don’t hold back from disagreement. “No computa.” Alisha was trying to learn a little Spanish. “Maybe it’s because you’re mom has demanded he stay away, that she thinks he’s no good for you, even if he does have a son and no longer has a wife.”

“Mom says Michael’s parents are raising his son. So, if he won’t take care of his son, why should he take care of his daughter?” All this was old hat for Molly. She’d been asking these questions since she started Kindergarten.

“If I had a half-brother you can rest assured I’d be looking for him.” Molly thought this was funny since Alisha and Alistar rarely communicated.

The bus driver’s gruff voice interrupted the passengers soft chatter. He announced they’d arrive in Newark in ten minutes. Molly removed her toboggan and laid it across her iPhone before looking toward her mother. With eyes wide open, Millie inclined her seat while staring straight at Molly.

“What are you doing?” Molly had no doubt her mother had discovered the secret iPhone.

Writing Journal—Friday writing prompt

Your character can hear something scratching beneath her bed, but she’s too old to believe in the Boogeyman. She pulls up the bed skirt, expecting to scare away a mouse that found its way into her room but instead discovers fresh claw marks on the floorboards. Write what happens next.

One Stop for Writers

 Guidance & tips

Write the scene of discovery (i.e., tell a story), or brainstorm and create a list of related ideas.

Here’s five story elements to consider:

  • Character
  • Setting
  • Plot
  • Conflict
  • Resolution

Never forget, writing is a process. The first draft is always a mess.

The first draft of anything is shit.

Ernest Hemingway

Writing Journal—Thursday writing prompt

At a rock concert, your protagonist is mistaken for someone associated with the band and is given a backstage pass. What happens next? 

One Stop for Writers

 Guidance & tips

Write the scene of discovery (i.e., tell a story), or brainstorm and create a list of related ideas.

Here’s five story elements to consider:

  • Character
  • Setting
  • Plot
  • Conflict
  • Resolution

Never forget, writing is a process. The first draft is always a mess.

The first draft of anything is shit.

Ernest Hemingway

02/01/23 Biking & Listening

Biking is something else I both love and hate. It takes a lot of effort but does provide good exercise and most days over an hour to listen to a good book or podcast. I especially like having ridden.

Here’s my bike, a Rockhopper by Specialized. I purchased it November 2021 from Venture Out in Guntersville; Mike is top notch! So is the bike, and the ‘old’ man seat I salvaged from an old Walmart bike.

Here’s a link to today’s bike ride. Although the distance is correct, the map isn’t. I’m not sure what happened with my RideWithGPS APP.

Here’s a few photos taken along my route:

Here’s what I’m currently listening to: The Second Deadly Sin, by Lawrence Sanders

Sanders was a tremendously talented writer.

Amazon abstract:

A police detective must find out who murdered a world-famous artist in a thriller by the #1 New York Times–bestselling “master of suspense” (The Washington Post).

A month ago, world-renowned artist Victor Maitland was found dead in his Mott Street studio—stabbed repeatedly in the back. With no clear leads or suspects, the New York Police Department calls Chief Edward Delaney out of retirement. Delaney is still adjusting to life on the outside, and he’s bored by his free time. He welcomes the chance to put his well-honed investigative skills to the test once again. To investigate the case, Delaney plunges into Maitland’s rarefied orbit. Following a winding path of avarice, deception, and fraud, Delaney uncovers a long line of suspects that includes Maitland’s wife, son, and mistress. When a second murder rocks Manhattan’s art world, Delaney moves closer to the truth about what kind of a man—or monster—Victor Maitland really was. But which of the artist’s enemies was capable of killing him and leaving no trail?

Dirge Without Music: Emmy Noether, Symmetry, and the Conservation of Energy

Here is the link to this article.

“Lovers and thinkers, into the earth with you. Be one with the dull, the indiscriminate dust.”



This is the sixth of nine installments in the animated interlude season of The Universe in Verse in collaboration with On Being, celebrating the wonder of reality through stories of science winged with poetry. See the rest here.


As he was revolutionizing our understanding of reality, Albert Einstein kept stumbling over one monolith of mystery — why is it that while some things in physical systems change (and relativity is a theory of change: of how changes in coordinates give shape to spacetime), nature keeps other things immutable: things like energy, momentum, and electrical charge. And the crucial puzzle: Why we cannot destroy energy or create it out of nothing — we can only transform it from one form to another in ever-morphing symmetries.

The revelation, which made Einstein’s general relativity possible, came from the mathematics of Emmy Noether (March 23, 1882–April 14, 1935).

Born into a Jewish family in rural Germany in 1882, the daughter of a mathematician, Emmy Noether showed an early and exquisite gift for mathematics: this abstract plaything of thought, this deepest language of reality. She excelled through all the education available to her, completing her doctorate in 1907 as one of two women in a class of nearly a thousand, shortly after the government had declared that mixed-sex education would “overthrow all academic order.”

For seven years, while Einstein was working out his theories, Noether was working without pay as a mathematics instructor at the local university. In 1915 — the year Einstein’s general relativity reframed our picture of reality — she finally received proper employment at the country’s premier research institution. At Göttingen University, where three centuries of visionary scientists have honed their science and earned their Nobels, Emmy Noether developed the famous theorem now bearing her name. Considered one of the most important and beautiful in all of mathematics, it proves that conservation laws rely on symmetry.

A generation after the women decoding the universe for paltry pay at the Harvard College Observatory under the directorship of Edward Charles Pickering became known as “Pickering’s Harem,” Emmy Noether’s mathematics students became known as the “Noether boys.”

In 1932, she became the first woman to give the plenary address at the International Congress of Mathematicians — the world’s most venerable gathering of brilliant abstract minds. Of the 420 participating mathematicians, Emmy Noether was the only woman. Another woman would not address the Congress until 1990 — the year the Hubble Space Telescope leaned on her physics to open its colossal eye into an unseen cosmos “so brutal and alive it seemed to comprehend us back.” As of this moment in 2022, there has not been a third.

Months after Emmy Noether’s address, the Nazis banished Jewish professors from German universities. The position she had spent half a century and a lifetime earning was vanquished overnight.

Einstein sought refuge in Princeton — that epicenter of physicists and mathematicians of his and her caliber. But Princeton had no room for a her. Emmy Noether ended up at Bryn Mawr. Although she was invited as a guest lecturer on the request of the working scientists at Princeton, whose field would have been unimaginable without her contribution, the university overlords made her feel unambiguously unwelcome. Even this cheerful and uncomplaining woman, too in love with the abstract beauty of mathematics to have been thwarted by the systemic exclusion of the body carrying the mind, rued that it was “the men’s university, where nothing female is admitted.”

Symmetry now permeates our understanding of the universe and the language of physics. It is nigh impossible to publish any paper — that is, to formulate any meaningful model of reality — without referring to symmetry in some way. This was Emmy Noether’s gift to the world — a whole new way of seeing and a whole new vocabulary for naming what we see, which is the fundament of fathoming and sensemaking. What she gave us is not unlike poetry, which gives us a new way of comprehending what is already there but not yet noticed and not yet named. With her elegant, deeply original mathematics, which came to underpin the entire standard model of particle physics, Emmy Noether became the poet laureate or reality.

And yet, having devoted her life’s work to demystifying the conservation of energy, she too submitted to the dissipation awaiting us all — each of us a temporary constellation of particles assembled for a pinch in spacetime, an assemblage that has never before been and will never again be, no matter the greatness and glory attained in the brief interlude of being succumbing to the ultimate mystery.

Emmy Noether died on April 14, 1935, after complications from a seemingly banal ovarian surgery. She had just turned 53.

Two weeks later, crowds gathered for a memorial at Bryn Mawr, where the great German mathematician, physicist, and philosopher Hermann Weyl delivered the memorial address. He opened it with a verse from “Dirge Without Music” by Edna St. Vincent Millay (February 22, 1892–October 19, 1950) — another woman ahead of her epoch in many ways, who frequently reverenced science in her poems about the rapture of reality.

Inspired by one of Millay’s most passionate loves — a young woman named Dorothy Coleman, who had died in the 1918 flu pandemic — the elegy was published a decade later in her collection The Buck in the Snow and now lives on in her exquisite Collected Poems (public library).Edna St. Vincent Millay, 1920s

In this special installment in the animated interlude season of The Universe in Verse, in memory of another irreplaceable constellation of atoms (without whom the modern landscape of scientific thought would not be what it is), I asked my darling friend and longtime collaborator in the poetic endeavors Amanda Palmer to bring Millay’s poem to life in a characteristically soulful reading, then invited another beloved friend — the prolific and Caldecott-decorated children’s book author and artist Sophie Blackall (who happens to be the maker of Amanda’s son’s favorite book) to animate it (in both senses of the word) with her characteristically soulful art, scored with a soulful original composition by English musician Tom McRae (who happens to be Sophie’s cousin):

by Edna St. Vincent Millay

I am not resigned to the shutting away of loving hearts in the hard ground.
So it is, and so it will be, for so it has been, time out of mind:
Into the darkness they go, the wise and the lovely. Crowned
With lilies and with laurel they go; but I am not resigned.

Lovers and thinkers, into the earth with you.
Be one with the dull, the indiscriminate dust.
A fragment of what you felt, of what you knew,
A formula, a phrase remains, — but the best is lost.

The answers quick and keen, the honest look, the laughter, the love,—
They are gone. They are gone to feed the roses. Elegant and curled
Is the blossom. Fragrant is the blossom. I know. But I do not approve.
More precious was the light in your eyes than all the roses in the world.

Down, down, down into the darkness of the grave
Gently they go, the beautiful, the tender, the kind;
Quietly they go, the intelligent, the witty, the brave.
I know. But I do not approve. And I am not resigned.

Previously in the series: Chapter 1 (the evolution of life and the birth of ecology, with Joan As Police Woman and Emily Dickinson); Chapter 2 (Henrietta Leavitt, Edwin Hubble, and the human hunger to know the cosmos, with Tracy K. Smith); Chapter 3 (trailblazing astronomer Maria Mitchell and the poetry of the cosmic perspective, with David Byrne and Pattiann Rogers); Chapter 4 (dark matter and the mystery of our mortal stardust, with Patti Smith and Rebecca Elson); Chapter 5 (a singularity-ode to our primeval bond with nature and each other, starring Toshi Reagon and Marissa Davis).

Writing Journal—Wednesday writing prompt

Your protagonist has to deliver some devastating news to a family waiting for the results of their son’s surgery. Describe the scene.

One Stop for Writers

 Guidance & tips

Write the scene of discovery (i.e., tell a story), or brainstorm and create a list of related ideas.

Here’s five story elements to consider:

  • Character
  • Setting
  • Plot
  • Conflict
  • Resolution

Never forget, writing is a process. The first draft is always a mess.

The first draft of anything is shit.

Ernest Hemingway