On Leap Day this year (2020) I received the poignant not-unexpected letter that my beloved dentist, Dr. Martin Nigrelle, with wife, Karen, and daughter, Holly, is closing his principled preventive effective practice March 1. March 1-6, I joined an Intensive Silent Contemplative Outreach Centering Prayer retreat at St. Andrew’s House (Episcopal) in Union, WA along Hood Canal. New behavior: social distancing: no hugs, frequent hand-washing, and the advice on coming home, to stay home.

At first my teeth went crazy: sensitive to cold, nerve pain on upper right, subsidence, lower left pain, and an awful reaction to ONE peanut butter GF cookie. I have been feeling that my old gold and silver-filled teeth have become my second pantry! As I moved into the soothingly structured order of sits, eased into my small, comfortable room, sleeping under a contemporary icon of Theresa of Avila, and increased and gentled my cleaning routine, my teeth eased.

Chef Treacy carefully adhered to my dietary needs: avoiding wheat, sugar, and acid foods like tomatoes, citrus, vinaigrette. After a horrid inflamed response to just one GF peanut butter cookie, I cut out all known sugar. Treacy made me a special batch of banana GF muffins that made me feel supremely seen and loved like my mother at her best. A psychic warm embrace. My heart and teeth calmed more.

I came home on Friday via Bremerton where I picked up my 60+-year old Olivetti Lettera 22 typewriter, that Paul Lundy beautifully cleaned, polished, and secured to its base.

Returning on the 3:00 pm ferry, I was directed to park close to the left wall of the center car deck. Proceeding to the forward stairwell, as I hopped along the left wall, left foot higher on curb, right foot lower on deck, I encountered two wheel chocks and in passing them, lost my balance and pitched forward, full fall, my left lower palm, taking the brunt. I thought, going down, of my gratitude for Neil Yamamoto’s teaching me to fall, and I was wearing my new heavy Fjällräven coat, so I think I relaxed. As I sat up, people inquired if I was okay. My cheeks did not sting (my signal of shock). My palm below my little finger was red and sore, and a surprising hot spot on the outside base of my thumb prickled. Proceeding upstairs, I saw the second mate’s office door with FIRST AID sign, but the mates were all aft launching the boat. 

Shortly after, I hailed a passing crew member who let us into the office and located a cold pack. He kindly whacked it active in a karate chop that made me wince at the power and sound. But the cold it provided as I rested with my feet up in the sparsely populated upper lounge, perusing the scene with my binoculars in right hand, put me ship-shape by landing.

Safely home in time for dinner, unpacking, and mail. A note from his co-worker Sean expressing an accolade to our son Carl with Congratulations and Respect for raising such a person, primed me for the next morning.

After starting laundry, walking with my neighbor, Carl called at 11:00 am. “Mom, stay out of the emergency room and self-quarantine for 15-30 days.” This delivered soberly, lovingly, with teeth.

Prescient, Carl has led our family into new waters. I keep thinking of Gabriel Garcia Marquez’ Love in a Time of Cholera, but this is Corona Virus with an inept, depleted, federal response, a prevaricating, corrupt, self-serving president, and strewn with needless deaths, and untold acts of kindness, heroism. Carl can read the graphs, understands the numbers. Back to Martin Nigrelle’s retirement, he has suggested successors, but the search must wait.

Meantime, memories surge: of my first dentist, Dr. Clifford Atwood, succeeded by his son, Douglas, in their elegant office near Newbury Street, Copley Square. Nearby were the alluring Bonwit Teller store (I was told that MIT occupied it for a while during the building of MIT, and—F. A. O. Schwarz-toy wonderworld where I got to go after what often was a difficult session to treat abscesses, or drill for fillings. How my father treated me to sugar cubes, dubbed “Ocean Candy” in restaurants, and offered Wintergreen Life Savers to comfort me after a bad dream. Sugar poison. My poor teeth. 

Next, in third grade. I dissolved a baby tooth in CocaCola as an experiment. It took 6 months! From 6th grade roughly 1956, through high school I went to Dr. Hunt, orthodontist in Lexington, for upper inner and outer braces and inner lower braces to rein in my errant “fang” upper right incisor and adjust my bite. Columbia University, 1958, announced the importance of flossing: hard to do with braces. The four molars that anchored the braces now sport precisely crafted gold crowns by Dr. Philip Tucker, Seattle. 

Meantime, Martin Nigrelle has instilled in me the 7 Dental Steps for cleaning, preservation and superlative self-care. http://7dentalsteps.com/ Teeth are the portal to alimentary and circulatory system health. I feel my mortality in my teeth. I befriend them.



CDC Cover image

The long hiatus between posts attests to the abundance of my life and the learning curve to improve my computer skills. The book came out in August 2012, in time for the American Chemical Society Nuclear Division Centennial Symposium honoring Glenn T. Seaborg and Charles D. Coryell, my father, as co-founders of the field of radiochemistry. Walt Loveland organized this event and invited my talk,”Charles D. Coryell: A Daughter’s Perspective,” recorded as the movie below. The book is available on Amazon as paperback and eBook, though eBooks do not include the back cover. The better quality paperback can be ordered from bookstores from Ingram Distributors.

In 2014 Carl and Sarah returned to Seattle from Singapore to give birth to Maren Seelye Starkweather. That winter Maria joined geologist Cathie Hickson on the Seabourn Quest as watercolor artist, sailing between Valparaiso, Chile and Buenos Aires, Argentina, via the Antarctic Peninsula and South Georgia. On her return in January, she and Darin announced the prospect of Stella Lee Coryell, born July 6, 2015. Both granddaughters arrived in water baths in the care of attending midwives. After Carl was born in 1975, Lucy Gray Martin sent us Frédérick Leboyer’s 1974 book, Birth Without Violence describing such births and infant massage.

By 2017, both families departed expensive Seattle for the western shores of the Salish Sea. First, Maria and Darin with Stella moved to Port Townsend in Jefferson County on the Quimper Peninsula where they navigate mostly by bicycle. Next, Carl and Sarah settled into a modest ranch home on a generous lot backing up on woods with trails in Winslow, Bainbridge Island. Carl commutes to downtown Seattle, Pivotal Labs, by bicycle and ferry. Sarah gardens with zest and skill, especially planting fruit trees and courageously shortening them for easy harvesting. Both families participate in PEPS groups, (Program for Early Parent Support) thereby widening our world of friends, too.

Seelye has been working on a book about the largest iceberg to break off West Antarctica into the Ross Sea and writing amusing science fiction stories. He has joined a writing group and avidly supports the summer Clarion West community of writers. He wants to put science into science fiction and more humor.

For me, I kept up exercising and coping with increasing discomfort and received a new titanium and plastic hip joint in March 2017. Revising my diet to high good fats and low carboydrates lowered my high cholesterol and weight more I would like. Thanks to orthopedic surgeon Sean Amann, and my physician at Kaiser-Permanente, Michelle Seelig, I was spared opiate addiction, and recovered quickly. It is wonderful to have restored mobility.

We drove to Corvallis, Oregon, for the solar eclipse and stayed with Walt and Patricia Loveland. There Walt provisionally recorded my audio narrative, “Charles D. Coryell: A Daughter’s Perspective,” to the American Chemical Society Nuclear Division Centennial Symposium, inspiring me to bring the project to completion: the Movie below.

Last fall I contributed to an interdisciplinary course taught by Professors Arwyn Smalley (Chemistry) and Nathalie Kuroiwa-Lewis (English and Writing) at Saint Martin’s University (Benedictine) in Lacey, Washington titled Atomic Narratives. The syllabus included readings in chemistry, ethics, poetry, memoir and two field trips. I attended more than half the classes as a “living memoir” and delighted in visiting the Reed College Reactor near Portland, OR, and to The Reach Museum in Richland, and the B-Reactor site on the Hanford reservation, WA. The furnishings were all reminiscent of early days at MIT, with a vintage Electrolux vacuum just like my mother’s. Sat in Enrico Fermi’s office chair and at the control center. The engineering of the numerous cells and their cooling is a modern marvel! On the way home we visited the lobby exhibits for the LIGO experiment, the Laser Interferometric Gravity Observatory.

At last with help from many, all acknowledged except for the last, I sent Walt the flash drive of the movie. The young Frenchman, Mathias Van de Kerckhove, who bought my 1986 Volvo 240, has become a treasured friend and neighbor. He has made many videos and patiently enthusiastically carried me over the top! Thank you, Mathias.




On July 27, 2012, my publishing partner, John Amiard Oberteuffer and I succeeded in submitting to CreateSpace.com the manuscript, cover, and supporting information about the enlarged Reminiscences of my father, Charles D. Coryell, prepared in 1960 for the Columbia University Oral History Research Center, Joan Bainbridge Safford, interviewer. The new title is A Chemist’s Role at the Birth of Atomic Energy. In October 2011, when Seelye and I traveled to Massachusetts, to celebrate my 50th Reunion from Lexington High School, we visited John Oberteuffer and Kathy Mockett who reside there and in Brewster, on Cape Cod. John and Seelye are classmates from LHS ’58, seniors, the year my classmates were freshmen. John’s father and grandfather were talented painters. As a post-doc at MIT, John worked on the MIT reactor  nearby Charles’ A. A. Noyes Nuclear Chemistry Center. John has self-published as John Amiard, Swedish Blood, a detective story inspired by family ties. John graciously volunteered to help me publish the Reminiscences. In May 2012, when Seelye and I traveled to Boston again for Seelye’s 50th college reunion, John and I set to work in earnest, founding Promethium Press, and making decisions how best to collaborate across the continent. Today is the culmination and the beginning of the next step: preparing the eBook version. In history, on July 27ths 1501, Copernicus became canon of Frauenberg Cathedral, 1866, the Trans-Atlantic cable was laid, and 1940, “The Wild Hare,” Bugs Bunny debuted.




Labyrinth Diagram, Chartres Cathedral, France

Labyrinth, Harmony Hill, Union, Washington

Oyster shells, closeup

Looking down, my feet slowly pace the labyrinth at Harmony Hill, Union, Washington. Made by oyster shells successively placed ten inches or so apart, the path spirals under a towering coastal hemlock, Tsuga heterophylla, with narrow feathery glistening green needles. In the grey autumnal morning I notice someone has placed along the way halves of a giant brown bivalve resembling a granddaddy mussel. Intrigued, I study their triangular shape, pointy joins, dull bronze exterior with flattened spines like tiny upended slats along the wider ends, their pearly blue-brown nacre interior. At the center several intact mated shells lean upright against the massive brown bark trunk. Few, they stand out! Where did they come from? Their thinness and fine spines toward the outer third suggest warmer waters, but Atlantic or Pacific? Who dared add these outsider shells like syncopation to the chunky blue-white natives?

Looking out, mist clouds the view to Hood Canal, Olympic mountains, world beyond. Looking up, strong branches radiate thickly from the great trunk and obscure the sky. Amidst foggy light, grey salt air, pliant chocolate humus underfoot, raindrops ping on nearby foliage. Acer macrophyllum, big-leaf maple leaves have drifted face down, their strong ribs and stems on top. What life do they shield like tents underneath, like buffalos decaying into the prairie, or whale carcasses on the sea floor?

This place in nature embodies the Chinese character 王, wang′ for king. Like the ruler, the central tree mediates among earth, society, and heaven. Mapping the same character, the Ming Dynasty architects of the Beijing Temple complex aligned along a single axis the Altar to Earth, Hall of the Ancestors, and triple-domed Temple of Heaven. To retain the Mandate of Heaven or the right to rule, expressed in freedom from disasters and harmony in the realm, the emperor worshipped in rituals set seasonally and consecutively from the bridal-cake Altar to Earth, through the single-domed Hall of the Ancestors enclosed in a circular “echo” wall, and finally, into the monumental three-tiered Temple of Heaven. Outside, the sentinel hemlock recalls the four giant pillars inside the Temple of Heaven. Restored in the 1920s, such ancient evergreens of great girth from coastal Oregon replaced the semi-millennial originals. Today, east and west of the Pacific Ocean, living and built trunks hold up the dome of the sky.

Looking in, the creators of the labyrinth at Chartres Cathedral in France provided a peaceful diversion from crusading. Monks laid the path in stone in the floor toward the back of the nave. Early pilgrims traced the same path, progressing on their knees.  Here, outside, I wish the narrow paths were wider, the diameter of the labyrinth and its walk, ever larger to embrace the whole earth, humankind, nature, the massive tree stretching to the sky—pointing into deep space: the Great I AM.

Looking after. Faith and poet Rainer Maria Rilke teach to question and be patient for  answers. My inquiry about the unusual shells brought the information that a visitor involved in the care of cancer patients had placed them. The edible Atrina rigida or Stiff Pen Shell, also called Pearl Oyster, is native to the Gulf of Mexico and abundant along the West Coast of Florida. Its reddish bronze color,  elongated asymmetrical triangular shape and irregular rows of more delicate spines toward the end contrast to the grey-white and bluish tones, chunkier bumps and ripples of the stocky Hood Canal mollusks. Both species live in salt waters over which the sun sets.

The metaphor of cancer dances on the edge of my imagination. Like these odd Floridian Stiff Pen Shells, cancer cells turn up beyond normal boundaries. Living, some grow and travel more aggressively than others, none know when to stop. Cells go rogue. What accounts for the increasing incidence of cancers? How have we heedlessly and arrogantly introduced new chemicals, upset natural equilibria, waged war within and among ourselves? What therapies can we devise?

Love made the labyrinth and the welcoming havens. The labyrinth is not a maze. In treading our journey, we can lose our way, but are never lost.

Tien TanTien Tarn002

S-N: Altar to Earth, Hall of Ancestors, Temple of Heaven, Beijing, Peoples Republic of China, Reign of Yong Le Emperor, Ming Dynasty, 1420 C.E.

BeijingTempleofHeaven Temple of Heaven ink and watercolor sketch by Maria Coryell-Martin, Beijing, 8/16/04


“To you I lift up my eyes, to you enthroned in the heavens.” -Psalm 123.

Looking North across Hood Canal, The Brothers Peaks, Olympic Mountains, in fleeting November afternoon sunshine.

Heartfelt thanks to St. Andrew’s House and Harmony Hill, neighbor retreat and conference centers in Union, Washington.



CantBustEmsLabel CBEms

Can’t Bust ‘Ems

Recently I have been wearing my vintage denim Can’t Bust ‘Em overalls to uproot dandelions while the garden soil is still moistened by rains. See my previous post for my history with the cheerful edible and invasively prolific “Dandy Lions, Lions’ Teeth.”

The overalls date from my radical feminist days learning and teaching auto mechanics, writing minutes for Aradia Women’s Health Clinic, and counseling for the nascent Women Studies Program. All B. C., before children.

Between September 2006 and December 2008, we moved to Washington, DC, so Seelye could serve as Program Manager for the Cryosphere at NASA Headquarters. As trailing spouse, I searched out local farmers’ markets and organic grocery stores for nutritious foods to support the more intense and travel-filled life there. I attended liturgically conservative and socially diverse and welcoming All Souls Memorial Church on the other side of the Zoo from our posh rental in Cleveland Park. We chose it for the indoor swimming pool, the tree-dense neighborhood across the Klingle Bridge from the well-used public library, and easy Metro commute for Seelye. I volunteered in the Center for Prayer and Pilgrimage at the National Cathedral, and I joined the Writer’s Center in Bethesda, Maryland. While we were away, both children invited their beloveds to live with them in our Seattle home. Carl and Sarah married on July 20, 2008, in our garden. Maria and Darin married on September 20, 2009, on the 900’-long former ferry dock at Indianola, Washington.

For Halloween in 2006, the National Zoo transformed pocket parkland into mock cemeteries. The tumbled tombstones named real lost species. After 35 years in 2007, Aradia closed its doors, hammered by rising need, high costs for security, and dwindling funds for reproductive health care. To transform my sadness and root myself in DC, at  the Writer’s Center Sara Taber’s course, “The Writer’s Toolbox” resulted in my ongoing Gentle Writers support group, my auditing the Radcliffe seminar, Writing Past Lives and Gender in June of 2007, and subsequently, my joining the Washington Biography Group. Proximity to New York catalyzed my resolve to obtain and proofread my father’s narrative of 1960 for the Oral History Collection of Columbia University. Only one reel of his voice survives. It is a gripping story of his formation as a scientist, his life as a chemist on the Manhattan Project and his views on the post-war politics of the scientists striving to keep civilian control and peaceful uses of atomic energy, and still germane. Now preparing the aural transcript for publication on the web challenges my computer competency, stretches my comprehension of science, and deepens my respect for  history, human frailties, ethics and scholarship.

Thanks to Seelye’s work in August 2008, I traveled with him to Ilulissat, Greenland, my first trip north of the Arctic Circle. A year later, we visited our son Carl and his spouse, Sarah in Singapore and continued south to visit friends from our DC apartment building in Sydney and Canberra, Australia, my first trip south of the equator.

With the potential demise of polar-orbiting satellite, ICESAT 1 from August of 2008,  NASA administrators asked Seelye to develop ICEBRIDGE, employing aircraft to survey the Arctic sea ice, and the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets, the most rapidly changing regions. ICESAT II is due to be launched in early 2016. Currently the majority of our orbiting earth observing satellites are working beyond their expected lifetimes.

Ice sheets press into glaciers. Glaciers form tongues and ice shelves as they reach the sea. As a linguist, I pay attention to glacier tongues. In our lifetimes, the retreat of the Ilulissat Isbrae or Jakobshavn glacier tongue is shocking. (See Dr. Waleed Abdalati’s slide below). The iceberg that collided with the RMS Titanic likely originated in that glacier, resulting in the gift to Harvard of Widener Library. On February 26, 2010, as our expeditionary-artist daughter, Maria and Seelye prepared their respective Art from High Latitudes and ICEBRIDGE exhibits at the Pacific Science Center in Seattle for Polar Science Weekend, the Mertz glacier in Antarctica in a collision with an iceberg lost the  area measuring roughly 50 miles long by 30 miles wide, 75% of its tongue.

Worldwide, glaciers are experiencing rapid changes with unpredictable outcomes. Seelye worries about creeping sea level rise. I worry about the scales, the modes of grasping truth, how to exercise compassion and maintain balance, serenity. We seem to have learned little from the financial meltdown, the speculation, the greed, the cruelty of monopolies and the subversion of the Constitution to prosper corporations above persons. While my personal life is full of love, health, nutritious foods, meaningful work, deep and sustaining friendships, I tremble for the fragile planet, for the rate of species loss, for the heedless mining of groundwater, for loss of courtesy and respect in public discourse and conduct.

The exuberant abundant dandelions, spreading exponentially, pose questions. What is enough? What are the right actions? I’m not sure anymore that we “Can’t Bust ‘Em.


Postscript. Maria observed that my conclusion is uncharacteristically pessimistic. Occasionally, Seelye crows that in the evolutionary sense, we are finished, done! While true, upholding truth as we understand it, and encouraging our young motivates me to keep learning, writing, loving. In DC, a Dutch friend lent me her copy of Professor Jürgen Pieters, Speaking with the Dead, (Edinburgh, 2005) from which I learned two wonderful affirmations. First, Machiavelli would spend his evenings by dressing up, entering his study, and conversing with his mentors, Aristotle, Socrates, Plato, vivifying them in his imagination to refine his own writing. Second, as a Chinese Language and Literature major, I have a sketchy grounding in history of Western thought. When my Gentle Writers confronted me, “Julie, you’re a poet!” I was shocked. “Not I, my mother was a poet.” In Pieters book, Aristotle’s definition of poetry as not metrics or form, but evocative power of language helped me understand their meaning. So maybe we can put on our “Can’t Bust ‘Ems” even if we can’t read the buttons without glasses, and they are worn and holey, and we can do our best to inspire, encourage, and work however we can. As my father often quoted, “The motto of Caltech is (Gospel of John): “The truth shall set you free.” As my friend Jill advised in our youth, “Let’s have a cup of tea with our dragons.” A very tasse.

Image courtesy of W. Abdalati

Image courtesy of W. Abdalati

C-Ms Methow by Darin

Seelye, Julie, Maria and Carl Coryell-Martin on Mt. Patterson, Methow, WA 27 March 2010 by Darin Reid


© 2024 Julie Coryell // Designed by Darin Reid