Friday, March 29, 2024

Friday Ramble - Atomy

The word atomy comes to us from the Middle English attome, the Latin atomus and the Greek atomos: a- (not) plus -tomos (divided), tomos hailing from the Indo-European temnein meaning to cut. Kindred words (of course) are atom, atomism and atomic, anatomy, contemplate, diatom, dichotomy, epitome and 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. Atoms were once held by science 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 or the exchange of component electrons.

Physicists now think the much smaller quark may be the fundamental element of creation. Named after a nonsense word coined by James Joyce in his novel Finnegan's Wake, quarks come in six eccentric flavors: up, down, charm, strange, bottom and top. Up and down quarks bond together to form composite particles called hadrons, the most stable being the protons and neutrons resting in the heart of atoms. Other quark pairs (charm/strange, top/bottom) have no function in our universe as we know it, but they had an important role to play as it was coming into being. Wonder of wonders, everything is in constant motion, these other quark pairs becoming up and down quarks as they decay and taking their rightful place within atoms.

Atomies come to mind when I awaken to grey, springtime skies, to 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.

Each and every drop beyond my windows is an atomy, a minute, complete world teeming with vibrant life, a whole magical universe looking up and smiling at this ungainly creature bent over in wonder with a camera in her hand. I don't think I will ever get a handle on using my macro lens to its full potential, but it is teaching me how to look at the world in new ways, and that is a fine old thing.

1 comment: said...

Such a thing of beauty you have written, Cate. Every time I read your words I consume delightful morsels of knowledge and am so inspired. Thank you, thank you.
Wishing you Bluebirds and gentle breezes of spring.