stem is beautiful

What a puzzle

Originally posted by wizardfrenchfries

He found his father-in-law in the sitting room that overlooked the rose garden and the fountain, where the western wall was only a thousand panes of polished glass. The sun was setting and the room was filled with the rich, amber sunlight of a late summer evening and the paler flickers from the hearth where drift-wood burned. Belle preferred the strangely shaped, salt-rimed wood to the traditional oak and pine for the unusual dancing color of the flames, the unpredictable shower of silver sparks, the fineness of the ash left in the hearth. Maurice was smoking a pipe and the smoke curled like twilight coming into the room, scenting the room with its sweetness.

“Maurice, I need to talk to you,” Adam began, running his hand through his hair half-distracted, marveling a little at how human it felt.

“I wondered how long it would take for you to figure it out,” Maurice said, puffing a little on the pipe, then setting it aside. “Frankly, I’m rather impressed with how quickly you have understood. I have perhaps underestimated you,” he said calmly, with an appraising amusement Adam had never been subjected to before. The older man made a small gesture of encouragement.

“It’s Belle. She’s…” Adam trailed off, searching himself for the correct word, the right collection of words that would explain it.

“She’s terrifying,” her father said plainly. “She’s always been this way, you know. Imagine how it was for me, I could hardly speak of it, of her, to anyone else. And such a little girl, no one would have believed me.”

“I thought she just liked to read. I thought she was very bright, self-taught– I thought,” Adam said. Maurice interrupted.

“You thought you could keep up with her. That it would be easy to do so, no?”

“I found her reading Vitruvius and Taccola, di Giorgio in the library. I didn’t know I owned the books, but I do. We do. I hardly knew who they were but she explained. I thought she would be reading Marlowe or Sidney or Marie de France, getting drunk on poetry, but she is designing a new mill and a bridge for Villeneuve now!” Adam exclaimed.

“When she was four, she built herself an abacus from the clock-work gears she found in my workshop. She learned German from the Belgian woman who made the best rolls in town when we were in Bergues, Latin from the priest,” Maurice paused. “I always wished there was an academy for her to attend, a tutor I could hire but there was no school which would take her, no teacher I could afford. Even to buy her a book was beyond me.”

“Does she love me only for my library?” Adam asked, aware he sounded overly dramatic, the echo of the self he had been before Belle, before the Beast, when he had been the prince and never gainsaid by anyone. Maurice just laughed.

“Of course not, you young fool. She is my daughter, but I’m not blind—anyone can see how she looks at you. But you must see her, understand her, if you want to make her happy—and it may not be easy. She’s not an easy woman, Belle, even if she might seem that way,” Maurice said.

“Go on,” Adam said. He had not yet learned enough humility to ask for the guidance he needed but if it was being offered, as Maurice was doing…

“She read all the time because as odd as it was, the villagers could understand it. There have been women who loved God’s word before and this is France, we have had our troubadours, our lays, our Heloise to Abelard. They could not understand a woman who was an engineer, who could rebuild their crumbling bridge, their windmills, re-design a city to resist the plague. To be fair, I’m not sure where she might go that the people would know what to make of her. But you, you have been several selves already, have been transformed and taught, however bluntly, by Madame Agathe, to see within and to accept. You might be the making of her,” Maurice said, pausing. “And I should like to see it. Her mother was much the same and I only painted her. Don’t do that.”

“I haven’t the skill or the inclination,” Adam replied, considering what a lovely model Belle would make, except that the static representation could never capture her essential quality of action, her mind, her eye, her hand all vital and primed to observe and change what was around her.

“Devote your talents to other endeavors, then. Buy her more books, yes, but also a surveyor’s kit, some broken clocks, a quantity of charcoal and paper, and if there is an opportunity for you to consult an architect, invite the man to dinner,” Maurice said. “You’re lucky,” he added. “You may invite whatever guests will please her and not worry that she will prepare the meal. She has many gifts, but cooking bores her. The kitchen doesn’t take such inattention lightly.”

“No, I gather from Mrs. Potts it does not. Have you any other wisdom to impart?” Adam answered.

“Nothing you cannot divine for yourself. You are intelligent enough, even if you are not her equal. Don’t let her know it and don’t forget it. Now, what vintage will we share tonight? A Burgundy? I thought I smelled some capon…”

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This spring, after a nationwide social media callout and with the help of NPR member stations, we received nearly 200 nominations for diverse innovators who are breaking new ground in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math. We picked 14 finalists to feature as part of the #RaceOnTech series on the radio and on social media.

We’ve been featuring a few of these finalists here on Tumblr throughout our four-day-long Twitter conversation with 12 of the innovators. To learn more about the discussion, check out #RaceOnTech on Twitter.

Balanda Atis is a chemist and the manager of the Women of Color Lab, L’Oreal USA. Atis was born in Brooklyn and is of Haitian heritage. She has a bachelor’s degree in biology from Rutgers University and a master’s of science from Fairleigh Dickinson University’s cosmetic science program. Atis has been at L’Oreal USA for nearly two decades, and over the years has worked to create products for women of all color. Determined to find a solution for herself and for women around the world, she formed a task force at L’Oreal and set out on a mission to solve this industry-wide scientific hurdle. It took 7 years, but because of her work, L’Oreal USA rolled out more than 30 new shades of foundation for various ethnicities.

NPR: Do you have any advice for young people of color?

Balanda Atis: I hope young women realize there are careers in the innovation behind beauty and are inspired by the groundbreaking work women do to address the needs of everyone around the world. I hope they feel encouraged and more open-minded about women in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fields, and are aware that women can be leaders in STEM. My advice would be to stay curious and explore different career paths in STEM. I never expected to work for a global beauty company and work on developing, experimenting and innovating beauty products. Working in the beauty industry offers you the chance to leverage innovation to help people around the world feel confident and beautiful. Working in the beauty industry allows you to be in the driver’s seat of innovation – of new formulas, products, packaging, research – and reinvent the future of beauty. There’s a deep connection with STEM, innovation and beauty, and working for a global beauty company empowers you to make a true impact on people all around the world.

Top photo: Balanda Atis in the L’Oréal USA Women of Color Lab in Clark, N.J.
Bottom photo: Atis (left) evaluates skin tones at the Neighborhood Awards in Las Vegas.
Photos courtesy of L’Oreal USA