Jogged by an article about global warming, I remembered a physics class where we talked about the greenhouse effect, and the mathematician Fourier. And that brought me back to another time....
One winter when I was studying mathematics
I worked for a scientist who taught me to look for
patterns in the waves that pounded the Oregon coast.
We talked about storms on the other side of the world,
and watched for the rare, high waves which he explained to me
formed by the chance meeting of small combinations.
He gave me a thin book written by a french mathematician.
Fourier explained that complexity could be understood by the the pure cycles of simple things.
Like a single note from a flute,
or the ripple from a pebble dropped in a calm pool.
This professor I worked for sought out chaos and the reasons
coastlines become devastated in storms.
I would go alone to rocky beaches during the largest storms,
and set up his instruments at low tide,
and then sit in a small trailer full of computers and wait for the desperate water.
It was always more than just raining.
I had to lean hard into the wind to keep from falling, and I fell sometimes.
In the trailer I would drink bourbon and read
about the calculus of sine waves, my wet hands covered with sand and salt, and wait for low tide.
I was trying to understand the chaos of my life,
so I would think back and find a few pure memories —
mornings baking bread,
or walking in moonlight on a spring night,
or reading to each other from books of poems.
Sometimes in that instrument trailer,
buffeted by the storms — nothing peaceful — the bottle empty,
I would write short stories, trying to prove Fourier’s theorems by breaking memories into simple parts.
— Here was the day we met.
— Here was the first kiss.
— Here was a box of her books in the back of the car.
— Here was that kitchen, that morning of baking bread.
Looking back I still wonder where the chaos came from, just as I still wonder about where the eroded land goes,
the grains that were rock, that math that explains everything so beautifully, and so, so wrong.
– steve saroff