Destiny by Ted Scott

                                                                                                                                   That’s a dirty word to a physicist. We don’t believe in destiny, except on the largest scales. We think that the sun will enter a red giant phase in about five billion years. We believe we’ll still see the same constellations in about the same place in the sky a year from now. We know just when the sun will rise tomorrow. But we don’t know when the next war will break out or when someone will die. We don’t even know who will be sleeping with who, in a month or a week. There’s a lot we don’t know and we can’t predict.

Destiny is a faith that somehow we can know what to expect. It’s not based on logic and data. It’s superstition, built on hope and desire. To a physicist it’s not theory or truth. It’s just a myth or a wish. For those of us who think about it more than we should, it’s an addiction, akin to pornography.

As humans, our minds are full of thought. We see where we are. We wonder what’s next. We look at options and choices. We wonder where each one might lead. Then we create a story for each, and we think of where we might be, in a week, or a year, or a decade. We imagine the stories to span the frothy sea of uncertainty to that place where we might want to be. We compare the price of the tolls to the rewards of the journey. Sometimes we make a choice, and sometimes we just sit back in the chair, and wait for it to take us somewhere.

We all like to listen to stories of heroes, like Joseph Campbell would tell. Heroes are born in unusual circumstances. Prophecies precede or follow. Symbolic events occur. Then follows a trail of destiny. Believers in destiny look for these kinds of things. That’s how they know what to follow. That’s how they know they’re on to something. But as physicists, we know that’s not for us. We are the party of Chaos and Doubt. We’re not supposed to believe in such things; after all, we’ve got that uncertainty principle.

As a backslider in the faith of Chaos and Doubt, I sometimes think about destiny. I think about the single photon emitted from an atom of a galaxy made up of a hundred billion stars located ten billion light years away. It spreads out in a feeble giant wave that gets to our Hubble and dumps all its energy in a single cell of a silicon detector; a connection between cause and effect, between two atoms sixty billion trillion miles and ten billion years apart. What an amazing event! With events such as this, Hubble collects enough light to make images, which become the beautiful pictures that we use to create the stories we tell, to satisfy our unquenchable need to know.

This morning just halfway between the Vernal Equinox and Good Friday, a tiny new baby was born. Though many were born then, only this one came with a message for me. His first name was Forest, as in Forest Gump, but his last name will be Scott, and soon I’ll hold him and whisper his name, and we’ll bond, and I’ll think about destiny, and I’ll wonder. What if there is a destiny? Why did my daughter set out on that search for that thing she must have? Why did she need to adopt a third, with two so healthy and fine? What led to that moment of passion between the birth mother and a man that none of us know? Not a virgin birth, but unusual just the same. Could this be marking the start, of some tale of a hero, on some kind of trail of destiny?

I’ll mark this unlikely photon, and save it with others I’ve known. Maybe by my last days, I’ll be able to make them into a picture that will give me a story to tell.

An Imaginary Friend by Ted Scott

I’ve never had an imaginary friend and I’ve never known someone who has, but I suppose that it’s possible so I’ll try to construct one and maybe have some conversations with him.
Or her; maybe that’s the way to go, an imaginary girlfriend. I don’t suppose Val will mind, since it’ll all be imaginary. Continue reading

Bucket List by Ted Scott

I think the last time I ever made a big to-do list was when I was 17 and a freshman in college. The items on my list were largely professional ambitions and within three or four months I had forgotten everything on the list. I doubt I ever accomplished any of them, as I kind of reacted my way through life. I wasn’t anything like Lou Holtz who made a very ambitious list at an early stage in his football coaching career. When he retired from his lifetime appointment as head coach at Notre Dame about 15 years ago, he claimed to have achieved all but five or six of the 107 items on the list. His list included things like being invited to the White House for dinner, winning a national championship in football and being head coach at Notre Dame. Continue reading


Leaning out over the water, like quivering antennae,
Each with its own small detector, tuned for a signal to come up the line.
Suddenly, a pull, a signal’s detected, promoted to a sharp shrill shriek.
The tiny creature is landed.
A crowd gathers round to join in the fun and the shrieking.
The hero pleads “Please, can I take it home?
It’ll be a good pet. I’ll feed it. Please, …”

But the mom puts her hand on his shoulder and says
“Let’s let it grow up. It won’t live if we take it.
Let’s give it a chance to get big.”
while Dad tries to unhook it, to throw it back in..
Then the crowd disperses, back to their stations,
and they wait for the next hero’s chance.

On the concrete ramp that divides the  long wall of children,
a big heavy boat tries to enter the lake, stirring up mud
from the wheels on its trailer, as a truck tries to back it all in.
Another boat waits in the lake for its friend,
making a deep loud gurgling sound, like the bikes at Daytona
when they’re just hanging around.

On a grassy spot, a few yards from shore,
a windsurfer is rigging her sail.
Like a sixteen foot wing from a giant dragonfly,
there’s a long curving bone at the front.
Behind, it’s tapered and thin, clear and bowed in the center,
with a spicy red edge all around.

The wing has no symmetry; it would need another to fly.
But by itself, pointing up, and attached to a board, its use is easy to see.
And with a good breeze, and a rider who knows what to do,
the board can go fast, as it skips along, with its nose in the air.
A sweet sight to see. Powered by wind, and guided by skill,
windsurfing can be such a thrill!

Now she’s done rigging and the children are leaving,
so she gets a spot for her launch.
She sees three power boats just lolling off shore
and making their gurgling sounds.
Why do they need so much power if they just want to be in my way?
The wind’s from the NNW direction,
so she needs to explore how it plays on the water.

She heads south to check out the shadow,
in the lee of the big wooded island of eagles.
She soon finds the best place. It’s east of the island,
where the wind gets forced through a channel,
and it’s easy to plane and go fast.

She explores the whole lake including the north,
where she finds some big floating leaves,
that can get in the way, but there’s no sign of milfoil today.
It’s not tall enough yet, to fill up the lake,
like it does at the end of the summer.
Now she’s ready to leave, so she takes a plunge,
and the water’s cool but not cold.

She wishes there was more of a beach, where she might bring
the grandkids to swim one day.
As she sails back to shore and separates her rig from the board,
there’s a gathering of geese nearby.
They turn their long necks for a look, and they mumble a bit,
then they go back to work for their dinner, picking out food in the grass.

Like the people before them, it’s a family event,
with six tall adults and twenty-two chicks.
And just like those others, they pay no attention to her,
as she packs up her sail, just ten yards away.

This poem was published in tales & TREASURES A Senior Sampler coordinated by Anita Phillips, Staff Writer, The Recorder   2011 Haley’s

Immigrating to Greenfield by Ted Scott

“I think we should move,” she said. The words filled me with apprehension. She had just returned from Greenfield, where she had done some babysitting and a little painting in the old house our daughter and son-in-law had recently moved into. Of course I understood why she wanted to move. Both of our children had started families. Our daughter had already produced a grandson. They moved north from New Orleans, and our son- and daughter-in-law had just bought an old house in Northampton and were in the process of fixing it up. Also, Val’s 96-year-old mother was living in a retirement place in Easthampton. Val needed to see them all on a regular basis. She was spending too much time Continue reading

Mouse by Ted Scott

Forgive me, you small furry beast
for I’ve been given a mission,
to trap you,
to remove you from our kitchen.

She said to show kindness and justice.
We discussed the means and the end.
Trespass is not a cardinal sin,
so we chose a non lethal trap,

that just locks you in, when you stray.
Your life is not to be threatened.
You’ll just be removed to the woods;
no harm at all,

except for the loss of your home, and
your loved ones,
and learning a new way to live,
in the woods, with new predators.

Think of it as a new adventure,
with new challenges to meet.
And think of me as your friend,
who gave you those new opportunities.

 And let us both reflect on this.
What if our roles were reversed?
Our Karmas exchanged in the kitchen
Would it be me in the woods, or worse?

This poem was published earlier this summer in “Boston Literary Magazine,” on-line and in print.

Columbus Day by Ted Scott

I’ve come to love Columbus Day, not because I’m a big fan of Columbus, or anything like that. In fact, as I’ve become more aware of my Native American ancestry, (one sixteenth Cherokee), I’m inclined to feel the other way about him. No, the reason I like Columbus Day so much is because I like the season. Since we got our little camp on Maidstone Lake, back in 1994, I’ve spent nearly every Columbus Day at the lake, and I have so many wonderful memories of those times. I’ll tell you about one of the most special, which was in 1997.

My wife and I were still working at our teaching jobs in western Massachusetts. For us it was a 4 hour trip to Maidstone, but because Massachusetts celebrates Columbus Day by closing all the schools, we could get away for a long weekend. That weekend is also celebrated as Canadian Thanksgiving by some Vermonters, so we would usually meet up with other lake friends to have a big meal and close up our camps. Closing up involves pulling boats and ramps and docks out of the water, packing up most of the food, cleaning up the house and the fridge and shutting off the water. It can be a sad time, because we have to leave that beautiful place and some of our friends until the next Memorial Day. Continue reading

Hurricane Agnew by Ted Scott

In June of 1972, I found out that there would be a 3 day meeting of the AAPT (American Association of Physics Teachers) at the State University of New York in Albany. I had just finished my first year of teaching physics at Westfield State College, and I wasn’t teaching again till July. I thought of Tom, my most enthusiastic physics student, and decided to call him and see if he wanted to go. There would be dorm rooms available, so it wouldn’t be expensive, and I thought that Tom who was planning to teach science in high school after another year at WSC, would benefit from the experience. Tom was a big athletic guy who played on the lacrosse team and was active with WS Ctheater, but he had become very interested in physics and even thought of trying to make up some of the requirements for physics teaching that he had missed as a general science major. Tom had met my family, and been charmed by three year old Karen and my wife Val. When I called him about the meeting, he was thrilled and offered to drive. That meant a lot since Val would have been without a car, with no public transportation and a new baby.

When I called the University to register and sign up for rooms, I was told that all the dorm rooms had been taken. There were some motels, but they would be too expensive. Not wanting to miss the opportunity, I asked about campgrounds, and was told there was one fairly near by. I made the reservation. We would use the huge canvas tent that Val and I and Karen and my sister and her daughter had used on our cross country trip the summer before. I brought along a chess set, so we would have some entertainment at night. Tom and I were pretty evenly matched and we both loved the game. Continue reading

Pauline and Me by Ted Scott

She would have preferred someone taller and a little better looking, someone whose family had some money, someone who was more forceful, someone who was a little more suave about table manners and clothing; someone who was a doctor, or at least had a PhD, but most definitely someone who did not wear a beard or a “toke.” That was what I got from Val on the way back to Cambridge from our weekend visit with Pauline and “Doctor” at their elegant old home in East Greenwich RI. Of course Pauline knew that Val was her own woman, and that there were many areas where Pauline’s advice would be ignored. I learned that the “toke” was the knitted cap that I pulled down over my ears when it was cold. Pauline insisted that it almost automatically identified one as mentally retarded,  and she would know because the had worked at the RI State School for the mentally retarded. She had married her boss, the school’s founder, Dr. Joseph H. Ladd, 30 years earlier. He was 90 and 10 years retired after a 50 year career at the school. Of course Val reminded Pauline that “Doctor” still wore a beard, a small goatee, but a beard nonetheless. Continue reading