Fire in the Brain

imageOne life-changing moment arrived when my poor grades in science resulted in a letter home to my parents.

As I confessed in a post penned weeks ago, my parents waved away my argument that girls don’t need science or math.

My choices were to continue down a sullen spiral of teenage bitterness (“That will show them”) or make a 180-degree turn and start engaging.

One day in science class I glanced up from the note I was scribbling to a friend and looked at Cheryl, the smartest kid in class.

She was bright, she was sweet, she was pretty, and we steered clear of her–the cool kids defied rules and avoided Cheryl.

But there she was, in rapt attention, focussed on the science teacher.

And it occurred to me that what she was doing was, well, listening.

Without lessons in zen or yoga, something happened. I began to pay attention.

Rather than let my mind wander (something I discovered sitting in church during a sermon) or writing notes or drawing cartoons, I invented a new scheme: I would spend the time in class engaged with the teacher.

I began to listen, then started taking notes, and discovered that focussing on the lecture–in the moment–felt empowering.

Something about information–facts, data, pictures–sparked campfires in my brain.

And the more information I gleaned, the more heat I wanted.

The campfires spread, leaving a glow that warmed my mind and soul.

Crawling into your own mind–to wrestle a solution to the ground or deepen your awareness–satisfies some hunger I cannot name.

Uncredited photo found at


About Cynthia Coleman Emery

Professor and researcher at Portland State University who studies science communication, particularly issues that impact American Indians. Dr. Coleman is an enrolled citizen of the Osage Nation.
This entry was posted in authenticity, framing, Indian, native american, Native Science, neuroscience, science, science communication, writing. Bookmark the permalink.

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