The Last Word


June 26-29, 2017

Ann turns a line in the earth into a geologic haiku, feeling her way along the remains of a coastline 200 million years old. On one side of this line lies an “unholy cat’s breakfast of hard metamorphic rocks” and to the other is “boring clay and mud and sand that took a couple hundred million years to wash off the mountains and build into the coastal plain.” From her office in a converted sail cloth mill, part of a string of mills once powered by the waterfalls coming down this “Fall Line,” she ponders the coincidence of geography, rivers, and human enterprise.

Instead of Night at the Museum, Helen brings us Night on the Mall. She comes in on the heels of National Pollinator Week to regale us with bat facts (female bats copulate in fall and hold the sperm till spring to become pregnant!). Following a bat specialist onto the National Mall, she enters a surprising forested underworld where none of the famous landmarks are visible, just bat habitat.

Cassandra scares the bejesus out of us as she passes through an airlock into a lab working on the bird flu virus at the University of Wisconsin’s Influenza Research Institute. She writes, “The lab had been thoroughly disinfected, but my scalp tingled with the knowledge of the viruses that had been thriving there.” The lab had been used to enhance the “pathogenicity or transmissibility” of the virus to see how bad it could really get. It is a place of dark and scary research.

A montage of advice comes from LWON writers who shared inspiring writing quotes they keep on hand to see them through their work, from Richard’s shut the fuck up and write to Helen’s You can survive. In fact, you can thrive. Just get a little shameless, and a little creative…words sent to her when she was laid off and faced the doubt of being a freelancer.

Richard tops off the week at LWON with a remembrance of an illness requiring his hospitalization, and the eloquent realization that “Medicine as we know it…is only about a hundred years old.” Meaning his health, his life, was in the hands of what is still a lot of guesswork. Neither science, nor art, he concludes modern medicine is performance art.

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Categorized in: Miscellaneous