"One ought, every day at least, to hear a little song, read a good poem, see a fine picture
and, if possible, speak a few reasonable words." ~Goethe

~ also, if possible, to dwell in "a house where all's accustomed, ceremonious." ~Yeats

Monday, March 14, 2011

The Mystery of the Matryoshka:
Within Within Within

Largest ~ Elegant Renaissance Maidens ~
Smallest ~ Very Tiny Little Red Riding Hood and Alice in Wonderland ~
~ Gifts from my friend Marietta. Thanks Et! ~

A couple of months ago, my friend Gabrielle left a couple of mysterious facebook messages. First, there was:

Did you know that your brain contains atoms that were once part of Albert Einstein?

Then a couple of days later:

I just want to let all of you guys that you're leftover stardust! I love you guys! So go be an amazing leftover star!

After that one, I just had to write back and ask her:

Q: Gabi, Have you been reading "The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man - in - the - Moon Marigolds"? I love that play!

A: By Paul Zindel? No, I haven't read it, but I should! I'm actually doing my physics homework right now. I am not a nerd . . . okay maybe a little! I've always found it fascinating that we're interconnected through a bunch of atoms. It's just more evidence that we're all part of one big picture. I'll definitely have to read "The Effect of Gamma Rays."

Ah ha! Physics homework! That explains it!

However, you can see why Gabi's posts made me think of Paul Zindel's play, in which the main character, Tillie delivers the following cosmic explanation of her science fair project. Tillie's stirring science fair speech never fails to give me goosebumps! She is a girl of such true vision, and one of my all time favorite literary heroines:

"For one thing, the effect of gamma rays on man-in-the-moon marigolds has made me curious about the sun and the stars, for the universe itself must be like a world of great atoms . . . but most important, I suppose ...my experiment has made me feel important--every atom in me, in everybody, has come from the sun--from places beyond our dreams. The atoms of our hands, the atoms of our hearts" (101-02).
(See my book blog Still Not Too Late: April 29, 2009)

Not long after my chat with Gabi, another friend had a great passage to share at our First Friday discussion group. But first, she said, "Do you have one of those Russian nesting dolls that we could look at?" Do I? I have big ones, little ones, authentic classics, cheap imitations, storybook characters, cats, Santas. And that's just for a start. I ran a got a few sets, and my friend Nancy read aloud:

"Keep in mind, as you pray and meditate, that the God inside of you is more powerful than anything else in the world. The entire cosmos is imprinted on every atom of your being. . . .

"You can think of the universe as a set of wooden Russian matryoshka dolls, with each doll having a smaller one inside of it. The entire visible universe is the outermost doll, and nested inside it are galaxies, solar systems, stars, planets -- right down to the smallest doll, which is you. But inside of you is an even smaller doll that somehow has the biggest doll inside of it. When you figure out this riddle, you will have discovered the key to your ascension!"

from Reincarnation: The Missing Link In Christianity

by Elizabeth Clare Prophet (1939 - 2009)

Talk about goosebumps! Naturally, as soon as I heard this, I had to share my favorite passage from The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man - in - the - Moon Marigolds, as well a quick summary of my recent conversation with Gabi. Atoms, atoms everywhere!

Little Ben with the Matryoshka Collection, 1997

Sam's Display of the Tiniest

I have collected many matryoshka sets over the years and have been given many as presents, especially when I was writing extensively about dolls and miniatures and the secrets of interiority. Most enlightening on this topic is Susan Stewart's book: On Longing: Narratives of the Miniature, the Gigantic, the Souvenir, the Collection. Stewart's insight on the dollhouse -- "the house within a house" and even more so, "the dollhouse within the dollhouse and its promise of an infinitely profound interiority" -- is equally applicable to the nesting Matryoshka / Matreshka dolls, stacked and nested so neatly within one another:

"Transcendence and the interiority of history and narrative are the dominant characteristics of the most consummate of miniatures -- the dollhouse. A house within a house . . . a space within an enclosed space . . . the locket or the secret recesses of the heart: center within center, within within within. The dollhouse is a materialized secret; what we look for is the dollhouse within the dollhouse and its promise of an infinitely profound interiority."
(p 61)

The atoms of our hearts, the key to our ascension, the tiny doll inside of us that somehow contains the entire universe -- herein lies the mystery of the matryoshka. Within within within.

Egyptian Mummy Matryoshkas from the Museum Catalogue
and Giant Mummy Earrings from Von's

Next Fortnightly Post
Monday, March 28, 2011

Between now and then, read
my shorter, almost daily blog posts

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my running list of recent reading

and my book



  1. I like this discussion and especially the idea of the stacking matryoshka dolls and what they represent. I also like Gabi's observation that we all have a little bit of Albert Einstein in us. I've often found myself being in awe when I think about the famous and not-so-famous people who have walked the same path I'm walking. No matter where I might walk in this world, chances are, someone has walked there before. Who were these people and what were their lives like? Amazing!

  2. Tammy writes:

    Here's another poem that's been on my mind. Nothing to do with Scotland, but to do with life:


    my body is a house,
    a vessel,
    a beautiful nest.

    i am a walking petri dish
    of microbes, ideas, and hope

    today i bloom roses in my cheeks
    and a child under my heart –
    my miracle of spirit and dust
    is made to host rivers, ecosystems, and (somehow also)
    wonder and trust

    i will hold you inside me as long as you’ll stay
    yesterday it was your brother
    maybe a cherished next
    i feel you when you breathe, turn,
    when you dance
    together we are baby-within-a-body
    a single system
    a unit;
    we are one

    you teach me now
    what it’s like to be connected and truly dependent
    you teach me what the world really is –
    each of us swimming
    in the juice of another,
    each of us a tiny body
    tethered to one too great to see
    each of us nourished invisibly, mysteriously, elegantly
    preparing to move down and out
    into a strange, sharp air
    we never imagined

    you show me how
    we are russian nesting dolls of
    surrounded at last by a giant of fathomless form
    who is boy and girl
    new and old
    work and play
    action, rest, and
    love all

    tammy l. knox sandel, 8/28/13

    see also: http://www.kitticarriker.blogspot.com/2013/08/every-chocolate-flake.html