MEET MEMBER KAREN WAGNER: DELAYED DEPARTURES

BOLLI Member and Poet Karen Wagner
BOLLI Member and Poet Karen Wagner

Karen grew up in Pittsburgh, PA and attended Pennsylvania State University, graduating with her BS, MA, and Ph. D.  in Geophysics in 1969, 1972, and 1976.  Dr. Wagner went to work for AMOCO Production Company in their research lab in Tulsa, OK and simultaneously became adjunct professor of mathematics at Tulsa University from 1977 to 1980.  She also continued competitive fencing in the tri-state fencing league. She transferred to Houston, TX to work for a production division of AMOCO in 1980 where she both continued competition fencing and became an avid catamaran sailor. In 1982, Karen began working for Natomas Petroleum International out of San Francisco where she actively traveled and worked the Bahamas and South America. During her time in California, Karen became a wildlife vet technician working for the Alexander Lindsay Junior Museum on weekends. In 1984, she returned to Houston, TX to become Product Development Manager for Borehole Seismic work at Schlumberger North American Headquarters. This work took her to Europe, Alaska, and Japan. During her extended stays in Japan (where Schlumberger had a research lab on the outskirts of Tokyo), she continued to play kendo which she had begun studying under Darrell Craig at the Houston Budokan.

In the mid 1980’s with the oil bust, Dr. Wagner switched careers from oil  to radar and moved to the Boston area to work for the MITRE Corporation.  She spent 13 years working on different projects including ground penetrating radar and over-the-horizon radar. She continued her martial arts training at a Uechiryu Karate dojo studying under Walter Mattson. In 1999, Karen began working for Raytheon Integrated Defense Systems. She worked on the Airborne Early Warning and Control System (AWACS), the Stealth Bomber weapons load, and the Ballistic Missile Defense System. She became a Raytheon Six Sigma Expert along the way.

After 35 years in high tech, Karen left Raytheon in 2011 and began a sabbatical that involved BOLLI and the pursuit of all things relaxing. Along with several colleagues, Dr. Wagner became an SGL for the “Science Sampler: Five by Three” which gave students introductions to eclectic topics in science and ran for four semesters.  After taking a writing course with Marilyn Katz Levenson, Karen discovered a talent for poetry which she pursues to this day in the BOLLI Writers’ Guild.  She has been a contributor to the last two issues of the BOLLI Journal. A sample of her poetry is included here, entitled “Delayed Departures,” about a pirate ship chasing a Spanish galleon.

DELAYED DEPARTURES

Fog

slinks around corners

shaves edges dull,

spills over ground

erases feet,

blows over fingers

my hand is

shadowed

inches from my face,

sets me adrift.

I rock in a sea of

foam and gull screeches

my memory sets sail

for a port of pirates,

mates swing

from the highest yardarms,

treasures of the high seas

await the daring;

we sail with the tide

to chase the rich galleon.

He strides the upper deck

under the Spanish flag,

scans the harbor

for the rowboats and crew

overdue at the bells

the riggings undone

an anchor to raise

while the weather encroaches.

My spyglass is blind,

in banks of mist,

there is easy prey

set low in the water

in a ship heavy with

doubloons and ornaments,

booty for a cavalier’s ransom,

and still I bide my time

until

I can count my fingers,

count my gold.