Communion Of Dreams


So I wander into this nuclear reactor . . .

I had reason to look up this item the other day, and was surprised that I hadn’t ever posted it to the blog. So, in honor of St Pat’s Day (well, OK, not really, but there is a connection…), here’s a little something from my old archives from a few years ago.

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So I wander into this nuclear reactor . . .

This morning’s news that the NRC has declined to force nuclear power plants to take additional precautions to prevent the breach of a nuclear reactor’s core by attack with a jetliner comes as little surprise, given the Bush administration’s attitudes about actual security issues.

But, as always when I hear such news reports, I was taken back to a sunny spring morning some 30 years ago, when me and a couple of college buddies wandered into a nuclear reactor.

It was the weekend of St. Pats day, and we were at the University of Missouri – Rolla to party with a friend of ours who was an engineering student there.  I think it was Friday morning, and our friend had some classes he had to attend, so myself and my two friends decided to just explore the campus a bit (we all attended schools elsewhere).

I had considered Rolla for school myself a few years previously, when I had been thinking of going into physics (a dream derailed by poor higher-math skills).  So when we came across the research reactor building, I wanted to have a look.

We just wandered in.  No, seriously.  We just wandered into the building, through a couple of sets of doors, and soon found ourselves standing at a railing, looking down at the glowing blue core of the nuclear reactor.  In this day and age it is hard to imagine such a thing – and even at the time it seemed more than a little odd.

A few minutes after we came in, a nice fellow who fit the stereotype image of a science professor came over to us.  Short, grey, bearded, balding, wearing a white lab smock over his shirt and jeans.  He sort of looked us over, asked what we were up to . . . and then gave us an impromptu tour of the place (after tagging us with personal dosimeters).

It was fascinating, to me at least.  The reactor core at this facility sits at the bottom of a large swimming pool, about 20 feet down.  That provides all the necessary protection from the radiation generated from operation of the fission reactor (which doesn’t produce much power, and doesn’t use the sort of fuel used in nuclear weapons).  Herr Doktor explained all this to us non-scientists, and also explained the eerie blue glow coming off the reactor (which was then in operation).

It was a color like I’ve never seen before or since – a soft electric blue that was both intriguing and repulsive.  I knew what it was, having been interested in physics:  Cherenkov radiation, caused when the radioactive particles generated by the fission reactions are faster than the speed of light in the water.  But it’s the sort of thing that lasts in the memory, embedded there in a way not unlike a religious experience – hard to describe, or explain, or convince others of, yet extremely vivid for the one who experienced it.

Now, I’m not religious.  I’m an atheist, in fact.  I understand what that blue glow is – yet, whenever someone claims that they have had a religious experience, I can tie it to that same feeling I had on first seeing that other-worldly blue glow.

Well, anyway, I had to share that personal experience, and add a bit of perspective on the changes we’ve seen in terms of security over the last 30 years.

Jim Downey



Sights and insights.

A mix of little things, playing catch-up for the last couple of weeks …

Why catch-up? Well, this might explain why I took a break for a while there.

And we’re off …

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First thing, thanks to all who downloaded Communion of Dreams over the weekend, or helped to spread the word about it. There were a total of 693 downloads worldwide — and that includes various European portals, as well as Canada, India, and Japan! Pretty cool.

For those who have gotten the book, once you have a chance to read it please take a few moments to review it on Amazon or elsewhere – it really does help, and as I am finishing up writing St Cybi’s Well the feedback is most welcome.

Because, yeah:

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A long, but quite good, read about the value of the ISS: 5,200 Days in Space

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And a fun bit of perspective from xkcd about getting there:

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Some great images from one of the sites I’ve mentioned here before: Pentre Ifan

Petre Ifan is a haunting burial stack that stands in a verdant Welsh field as one of the most complete and dramatic stone dolmens still found anywhere on the planet.

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Wow.

X-rays stream off the sun

Go see the full size image and explanation of the science. Worth it.

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An excellent read by an old and dear friend: There’s an App for That: Cancer in the Modern Age

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And another excellent read, all in all. But this paragraph is so painfully true:

“Writing is a strange and solitary activity. There are dispiriting times when you start working on the first few pages of a novel. Every day, you have the feeling you are on the wrong track. This creates a strong urge to go back and follow a different path. It is important not to give in to this urge, but to keep going. It is a little like driving a car at night, in winter, on ice, with zero visibility. You have no choice, you cannot go into reverse, you must keep going forward while telling yourself that all will be well when the road becomes more stable and the fog lifts.”

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Any others to add? The 10 Sci-Fi Films That Defined 2014

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Of course, reading is always better for you: Brain function ‘boosted for days after reading a novel’

See? I’m actually making you SMARTER! Keep that in mind when you write a review, will ya?

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And that’s enough for now. I need to get back to my “strange and solitary activity”.

 

Jim Downey



What’s in a name?

Excerpt:

“This is my well. Of course I know what the well may provide.”

“Your well?”

She nodded. “My well.”

“You’re … Anne? St Anne?”

“No,” she said. “I’m Annis. This is my well. My place.”

“I don’t understand.”

“Finish the cup.”

He looked down into the mug he was holding. “I …”

“Finish the cup. It will help.”  Her voice was still light and pleasant, but now there was a commanding power behind her words. “It will help.”

Darnell closed his eyes, downed the cup.

When he opened his eyes again, the woman was no where to be seen.

It’s a fun place, one I would like to visit.

 

Jim Downey



Three shall be the number of the counting…*

Excerpt:

The priest spoke. “My friends, welcome. We’ll go inside the church and start services in a little bit. But I know many of you are not regular members. And while I would urge you to consider this moment to be the right time to become closer in fellowship with the Church, I think that what has happened transcends even the Church. God has spoken to us all, revealed His truth, to believer and non-believer alike.”

He reached into the box and carefully, respectfully, removed the goblet, and held it up. “So it is time to reveal something else which has long been hidden away: the cup of St Teilo, miraculously made from one of his skulls. The ancient legends say that drinking the water from Ffynnon Gwyddfan out of the cup will cure those who are stricken, and bless even the pagan.”

He moved off to the side, and down the slight hill, the crowd making way for him. He stepped up to the brick wall, and then reached down with the goblet to scoop up water from the well. Again he held it up for all to see. “Believer or not, all of us have been stricken with fear, unsettled in soul and mind by the darkness in this world. Drink of this cup, and let the water refresh you. Pass the cup from hand to hand, sharing the light of community. Be at peace, whatever comes.”

 

Jim Downey

*Sorry, couldn’t resist. Check the Wikipedia link about St Teilo above.



All bound together.

Today’s excerpt from St Cybi’s Well. The scene takes place at Gumfreston Church, outside Tenby:

He glanced up the way to the parking lot beyond the wall. His was still the only car there. Then he turned and followed the walkway further down the hill, past the church building. Partway down the hill a modern bench sat amongst the ancient graves, overlooking the secluded little niche containing the group of three wells. They were all clustered together, with fairly recent fieldstone platforms and walk around them.

Darnell went down directly, paused just before the first of the three. There were simple little white crosses painted onto some football-sized rocks beside the path. Small ribbons and bells were tied to trees and bushes nearby. On some of the rocks, and on the edges of the platforms, were the burnt-ends of candles. Clearly, this was still a place of pilgrimage.

He stepped onto the narrow platform, and once again could feel that strumming, that flowing energy he had felt in St David’s. Some yards away, sheltering the site from the outside world, were thick curtains of vines, still full leafed and deep green from summer, draping down from massive ancient trees. This added to the sense of the place being somewhat apart, special.

He knelt down, reached his hand to the surface of the first well. It bubbled slightly, but was otherwise clear and without a strong odor. He could feel a brightness, a clear sparkling energy to it.

The middle spring was slightly cloudy, with a ruddy kind of moss all along the bottom and sides of the pool and the little stream which left from it. Placing his hand lightly on the surface, he could feel a deeper, somewhat darker energy. Not darker in a negative sense, but one of earthiness, like the rich loam of a well-cared-for garden.

The third and lower spring had some element of that ruddiness to it, but it also had a distinct aroma of sulfur – distinct, but not overpowering. Touching the surface of that pool Darnell felt what could almost have been heat, though the water was still cool to the touch. Rather, it was as though the energy was intense, as if it were coming from a fire.

Kneeling there, reaching down, it almost felt like praying. He smiled to himself, and got up. Going back up the path, he sat on the bench overlooking the wells, and considered them.

Brightness, sparkling, as in the air. Richness, as the loam of the earth. Intense, as in fire. All bound together with water, flowing and mingling.

Little wonder this site was still on the pilgrim’s path.

 

Jim Downey



A living path.

Excerpt from today’s work on St Cybi’s Well. The scene is set here.

And because of those words, he did look down. And he saw a line. A wide line of darker grey stone which ran from the center of the West Front door to the pulpit. But there was something else there, as well. Something … deeper. Almost like water, shimmering. Somehow under the stone. Infusing the stone. Was it one of the absurd ley lines which St. John had talked about? But Darnell didn’t believe in those.

Or did he?

What did he believe, anymore?

“Look at it with new eyes,” Megan had said. “Try and see it as the believers see it.”

The believers? Or we believers? Did the distinction make sense anymore?

Did it matter?

He stepped onto the line.

Of course, it was like stepping onto any other stone. Solid. Hard. Dependable. Real.

He took another step, along the line of grey. And it was still solid. But now he felt something like a tremor run through the floor. He glanced up at the gorgeous wooden ceiling overhead, and remembered that it was there due to an earthquake which struck the area back in the thirteenth century. And he wondered whether the fault was again active.

But none of the others in the cathedral seemed to notice the tremor. No bells chimed in the distance. The carved panel depiction of the crucifixion high above did not sway.

He took another step, paying close attention. Again, he felt something. But it was less a tremor, and more a slight vibration, a springiness, like stepping onto a taut trampoline or a tightrope. There was a … strumming … but only in response to his steps. This wasn’t a ley line, at least not as he had understood it. It was, rather, a living path.

 

There’s about 12 hours left in this weekend promotion. About 500 people worldwide have downloaded Communion of Dreams so far … including, for the first time (that I can recall, anyway) 3 downloads in Japan. Pretty cool.

 

Jim Downey



Pentre Ifan

Excerpt:

Eleazar considered, again reached up and laid a hand on the closest upright. “You said yourself: there are structures like this all around the world, built within the same time period. But they’re in completely different cultures. Cultures which had little or no contact.”

“So?”

“So, how likely is it that the mythology associated with Wales would apply to all those sites?”

Darnell allowed his hands to fall to his side. But he looked up again at the huge stone which almost seemed to float above his head. “Not very, I suppose.”

“Still, you have the gist of it. In some way, they are all connected. It’s just that the way of  … understanding …” Eleazar stared at the stone structure, almost as though looking for inspiration  “… of interpreting … has to be done within a given culture.”

“Understanding what, exactly?”

Eleazar looked from the stone to Darnell. Looked him right in the eye. “Miracles.”

 

Jim Downey




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