Atomy comes to us from the Middle English attome, the Latin atomus and the Greek atomos: a- (not) plus -tomos (cutting), thence from the Indo-European temnein meaning to cut. Kindred words (of course) are atom, atomism and atomic, and (not so obviously), tome which now refers to a book or a volume of reading material but once meant simply something cut or carved from a larger entity. Synonyms include corpuscle, mote, particle, speck, molecule and grain, as in "a grain of sand" or "a grain of sugar"
An atomy is a tiny part of something, a minute particle, and theoretical physicists once believed it was the smallest unit of the known universe: a dense, central, positively charged nucleus circled by electrons whirling round and round in ecstatic orbit. Complete within itself, the atomy was deemed irreducible and indivisible except in constrained processes of removal, transfer or the exchange of component electrons. Current thinking is that much smaller quarks are the fundamental elements of creation, and those of which atomies, atoms and other tiny wonders are composed come in six eccentric flavors: up, down, charm, strange, bottom and top.
Awakening this morning to gray skies, I thought about the atomies and small worlds outside the windows. Rain on the roof was beating staccato time without reference to meter or metronome, and a puckish wind capered in the eaves, ruffling new foliage in the garden like tangy decks of playing cards. Drifting fog wrapped the old trees, rooflines and chimneys in the village.
Rain spattering early tulips and tiny leaves, dappling grasses in the hedgerow - each and every coin of wetness out there is an atomy, a minute world teeming with vibrant life. There's a whole magical universe looking up and smiling at this ungainly creature bent over in wonder with her camera in hand and a notebook in her pocket. My fingers are too stiff to hold a brush most mornings, but the lens is teaching me how to look at the world in new ways, and that is a fine old thing.