So - Halloween in the laboratory...it was Wednesday, so mid-day found us in our weekly meeting, working on presentations for our University's annual Student Research Day - two ten minute presentations and one poster presentation needed to be reviewed. Wes proved true to his word and arrived with homemade glazed and chocolate covered doughnuts.
Let me just say: Who needs Krispy Kreme?
So Ben went first, talking about his vision for how to wrap up a small part of his dissertation project with some degree of satisfaction - his talk Friday more of a practice for a talk for a more important presentation later in November at a national meeting. He's almost ready - frustrated, but almost there - and as I listened to him today, I couldn't help but think about the image he had just shared with the lab of his Halloween costume this year, and sometime in the near future (in two years?) that I will most likely sign a form that confers the Doctor of Philosophy to the Jolly Green Giant one day (these momentary realizations always make me smile). Ben's talk was followed my another student's presentation - a talk coupling global climate change with the hypothesized increased expression of proteins representing key bacterial virulence factors - promising preliminary data just waiting for validation - validation that will hopefully come in December. The third presentation, in poster format, was a happy one: good data over the past few days opened up possibilities - the data made sense, new observations supported by relevant older ones - a much happier graduate student shared her news.
So - the day was meetings for me and a hallway conversation about trees, rooted but not photosynthetic, phylogenetic trees that tell us who we're 'looking' at - me, cranky, just wanting to get past a few hurdles without having to think too much about it, but I think all will be well, and soon. I think this is the first year - perhaps in my life? - that I haven't carved a pumpkin on Halloween, but fortunately the lab's homemade doughnut maker sent us all an image of his Charles Manson pumpkin creation - yes, the members of the laboratory are a creative lot - Ben shared his two with us as well (above).
So - as usual - Katherine read a poem appropriate for the day - a reading on the eve of her birthday. The Jolly Green Giant suggested this evening that we all write her a haiku as a gift, and I think that is a most appropriate suggestion - one that I need to think about on this warm Halloween evening that has a tropical storm churning towards the Bahamas and then towards the north, away from our dry southeastern coastline. As for Poe, what a mysteriously talented man - and today before Katherine read Lenore we daydreamed for a bit about what Poe might have been like, wandering our hallways, and tonight I think about the words used to describe him: magician, scandalous, army man, morphine addict, one of America's greatest writers, macabre, brilliant cryptographer, and more. I've now lived in two places where Poe spent some of his days - wandering Sullivan's Island outside of Charleston and the University of Virginia campus in Charlottesville. This reminds me that I need to go back, that I need to go back and read some of what he wrote while spending time in the mountains around my parents home. A Tale of the Ragged Mountain comes to mind.
But for tonight? A poem of undying love, hypocrisy, and the trajedy of early death on this still and quiet and dark evening.
by Edgar Allan Poe
Ah broken is the golden bowl! the spirit flown forever!
Let the bell toll!--a saintly soul floats on the Stygian river;
And, Guy De Vere, hast thou no tear?--weep now or never more!
See! on yon drear and rigid bier low lies thy love, Lenore!
Come! let the burial rite be read--the funeral song be sung!--
An anthem for the queenliest dead that ever died so young--
A dirge for her the doubly dead in that she died so young.
"Wretches! ye loved her for her wealth and hated her for her pride,
"And when she fell in feeble health, ye blessed her--that she died!
"How shall the ritual, then, be read?--the requiem how be sung
"By you--by yours, the evil eye,--by yours, the slanderous tongue
"That did to death the innocent that died, and died so young?"
Peccavimus; but rave not thus! and let a Sabbath song
Go up to God so solemnly the dead may feel so wrong!
The sweet Lenore hath "gone before," with Hope, that flew beside
Leaving thee wild for the dear child that should have been thy bride--
For her, the fair and debonair, that now so lowly lies,
The life upon her yellow hair but not within her eyes--
The life still there, upon her hair--the death upon her eyes.
"Avaunt! to-night my heart is light. No dirge will I upraise,
"But waft the angel on her flight with a Pæan of old days!
"Let no bell toll!--lest her sweet soul, amid its hallowed mirth,
"Should catch the note, as it doth float up from the damnéd Earth.
"To friends above, from fiends below, the indignant ghost is riven--
"From Hell unto a high estate far up within the Heaven--
"From grief and groan, to a golden throne, beside the King of Heaven."
As written by Katherine Williams: Born in 1809 and orphaned at three of his actor parents, he was raised by a wealthy tobacco-exporter in Virginia who sent him to the finest boarding schools. He excelled in University but was dismissed after his first year because of his gambling debts. He published his first volume of poems while in the Army and went on to become the first American to figure prominently in world literature, by inventing the detective and the horror story, designing the modern American short story, and being among the first artists to work simply for art’s sake.