Friday, May 07, 2021

Friday Ramble - Atomy

There it is, one morning after a rain, the perfect shining drop suspended from a rose cane in the garden. In its glossy depths are clouds, sunlight and blue sky, grass, trees and flocks of birds, mountains and rivers, the whole wide world turned upside down and sparkling. The drop holds everything that matters. It's a tiny cerulean jewel, a veritable cosmos, an atomy.

This week's word comes to us from the Middle English attome, the Latin atomus  and the Greek atomos, thence the Indo-European temnein meaning to cut. Kindred words (of course) are atom, atomism and atomic, epitome 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 sugar.

An atomy is a tiny part of something, a minute particle, and atoms were once thought to be the smallest possible units of the known physical universe,  dense, central, positively charged nuclei circled by electrons whirling around in ecstatic orbit. Complete within themselves, they were thought to be irreducible and indivisible except for constrained processes of removal or transfer, the exchange of component electrons.

Physicists now think the much smaller quark is the fundamental element of creation. Named after a word in James Joyce's Finnegan's Wake, quarks come in six eccentric "flavors": up, down, charm, strange, top and bottom. Up and down quarks are the lightest and most common, bonding together to form subatomic particles like the protons and neutrons in the nuclei of atoms.

Wonder of wonders, everything happens in threes, something that always pleases me. A proton consists of two up quarks and one down quark, a neutron one up quark and two down quarks. The other four quark flavors are heavier, and they are transformed into up and down quarks as they decay, becoming protons and neutrons somewhere up the road. The universe is as complicated as it is exotic, and for every ordinary subatomic particle, there is a corresponding antiparticle with the same mass, opposite charge and magnetic moment.

Atomies come to mind when I awaken to leaden skies and rain on the roof beating staccato time without reference to meter or metronome, to a puckish wind capering in the eaves and ruffling tiny green leaves in the garden like tangy decks of playing cards, to drifting fog wrapping the old trees, rooflines and chimneys in the village.

Every raindrop (or dewdrop) out in the garden is an atomy, a minute complete world teeming with vibrant life, and within each is a whole magical universe looking up and smiling at this ungainly creature bent over in wonder with a camera in her hand. Either that or recoiling in dismay. I don't think I will ever get a handle on using my macro lens to its full potential, but its loving eye is teaching me how to look at the world in new ways, and that is a fine old thing.

3 comments:

Tabor said...

Wow, there is a lot there! I am going to have to come back and re-read more slowly. Love how language flows.

Barbara R. said...

what a fun trip into smallness. I feel pretty huge now. And I just read a quote about string theory. So many ways to look at existance!

Victoria Londergan said...

Deeply appreciating these sharings as you invite me into these images which create a metaphoric cairn or homage to your experience and beautiful aliveness 🙏🏻💜🧚