Mar. 14, 2006


by Robert Morgan

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Poem: "Honey" by Robert Morgan from Wild Peavines. © Gnomon. Reprinted with permission.


Only calmness will reassure
the bees to let you rob their hoard.
Any sweat of fear provokes them.
Approach with confidence, and from
the side, not shading their entrance.
And hush smoke gently from the spout
of the pot of rags, for sparks will
anger them. If you go near bees
every day they will know you.
And never jerk or turn so quick
you excite them. If weeds are trimmed
around the hive, they have access
and feel free. When they taste your smoke
they fill themselves with honey and
are laden and lazy as you
lift the lid to let in daylight.
No bee full of sweetness wants to
sting. Resist greed. With its top off
you touch the fat gold frames, each cell
a hex perfect as a snowflake,
a sealed relic of sun and time
and roots of many acres fixed
in crystal-tight arrays, in rows
and lattices of sweeter latin
from scattered prose of meadows, woods.

Literary and Historical Notes:

It's the birthday of the playwright and screenwriter Horton Foote, born in Wharton, Texas (1916). He's best known for writing the screenplays for movies such as To Kill a Mockingbird (1962) and Tender Mercies (1983). He also won a Pulitzer Prize for Drama for his play The Young Man from Atlanta (1995).

It's the birthday of the humorist Max Shulman, born in St. Paul, Minnesota (1919). He wrote several books, including Anyone Got a Match? (1964) and Potatoes Are Cheaper (1971). He grew up during the Great Depression and he said he became a humorist because, "I turned early to humor as my branch of writing ... [because] life was bitter and I was not."

It's the birthday of Sylvia Beach, born in Baltimore, Maryland (1887). She founded an English language bookstore and lending library on the Left Bank of Paris called Shakespeare & Company (1919). It became a central feature of the Parisian literary scene of the 1920s as it opened just as the "lost generation" discovered Paris. It became "the unofficial living room" of the expatriate artists there. Writers used it as a meeting place, a post office and a place to find guidance for their writing.

It's the birthday of the physicist Albert Einstein, born in Ulm, Germany (1879). He first became interested in science as a young boy when his father showed him a compass. He was home schooled for the early part of his life, and when he finally went to school with the other children, his teachers thought he was developmentally disabled. He almost never talked to the other children, and he refused to study any subject he didn't find interesting. The only subjects he did find interesting were math and philosophy.

He spent his spare time building huge houses of cards and playing the violin. In high school Einstein's teachers grew even more frustrated with him. One teacher tried to have him expelled because all he did in class was sit in the back of the room smiling. He finally dropped out at the age of sixteen.

His father persuaded him to apply to a technical college in Zurich so that he could at least get a degree in engineering. Einstein flunked the entrance exam in all subjects except for math. But one of the professors at the school was so impressed by his math scores that he accepted Einstein anyway.

Einstein began working toward a Ph.D. in physics, but he didn't get along well with his professors. He was constantly questioning their ideas and refusing to show the proper respect. He often missed classes and only passed his final examination because his friend let him borrow all his lecture notes.

He was planning to get married, and suddenly he didn't have any way to make a living. His mother had warned him that getting engaged too soon would ruin his career, but he refused to break off the engagement. He was too in love. At the last minute, he got a job at the Swiss patent office.

His son was born, and Einstein began studying and thinking at all hours of the day and night while taking care of the baby. Above all, he was interested in finding some law that could explain all the forces in the universe, from gravity to electromagnetism. One night, in the spring of 1905, he stayed up late working on a problem, but went to bed extremely disappointed. The following morning, he woke up and suddenly everything made sense. He said, "It was as if a storm broke loose in my mind."

Einstein spent the next several weeks writing a paper on his theory, which came to be called the Special Theory of Relativity, the theory that both time and motion are relative to the observer.

That same year Einstein published three more papers, each of which was just as revolutionary as the first, including the paper that included his most famous equation: E = mc2, which means that there is tremendous energy trapped inside all particles. That equation was the theoretical basis for nuclear weapons. Years later, after the creation of the atom bomb, Einstein said, "If I had only known, I would have been a locksmith."

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