Matter and energy

Dear President Trump,

Today is my mom’s birthday, the last in a long string of August family birthdays that started on the 10th with my deceased grandfather, then my father’s on the 12th, my twin sisters’ on the 14th, and our brother-in-law’s (BIL) on the 18th. When we were kids my brother and I would get pouty about being the odd kids out because our birthdays were not in August. At this point, though, I’m much happier that BIL’s birthday falls inside the August family birthday bounds than I am sad that mine doesn’t.

Last night standing out on the front porch watching the clouds move across the sky I indulged in a bit of wistful, wishful thinking and whispered to BIL that if he’s out there, I hoped he’d been able to find our baby, Roy, and his mom and dad, and his beloved sister-in-law. I even tried to describe Roy so he could find him more easily. I suppose I’m in my own weeks of magical thinking even as I am 99.999% sure this is not how it works.

This morning I remembered there is a physical law that holds that all matter and energy are constant forever and the idea gave me quite a bit of comfort. The matter and energy that comprised BIL and Roy and everyone else who has ever died, including the baby orca whale whose mom couldn’t let go, is still present in the universe and is constantly being recycled into new things. I did a cursory search a few minutes ago to double-check and while I think I’ve got the basics right, the one thing that is giving me pause is the stipulation that the change processes need to take place in a closed system for the conservation principle to hold. I don’t know whether the universe is really a closed system and I don’t think you can fudge that part. But even still, matter and energy don’t just disappear into thin nothingness so maybe it’s that the same amount of matter and energy exists over all time but the where-ness of it is uncertain.

Some years ago I wrote a poem kind of getting at this idea and I think it sums up these ideas pretty well.

Light After Death

 Dead stars still sparkle.


 Light from dead stars
still sparkles.

Light from dead stars
exists eons after
the stars
gave up their ghosts.

What if the same
principle applies
to everything?

May we keep all our loved ones safe in our hearts.
May we be happy for their existences.
May we keep working to make the world hospitable and healthy.
May we make peace with mortality so we can better embrace life.

Tracy Simpson

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