Tuesday, September 10, 2013

UP – 120 Degrees of Separation

It’s easy to think of discovery as something that happens at arm’s length. When I’m walking in the woods or on the beach, I tend to be looking close, looking down. Maybe I pick something up and look even closer.

Sure, I look around—at the path ahead, at other people, at animals on the ground or in the lowest branches of the trees. But raising my gaze more than 20 or 30 degrees above the horizon is something I have to keep reminding myself to do more often.

   What are we missing when we let the horizon, 
   like gravity, keep a tether on our awareness?

That incomprehensibly vast half-universe above holds enough beauty, enough wonder, enough elegant details to captivate any curious observer, even those of us who aren’t astronomers.

So what are we missing when we let the horizon, like gravity, keep a tether on our awareness?

Birds, clouds, tricks of light played by sun and atmosphere. Aircraft, from the loud and lumbering to that sleek one with a contrail whose faint roar comes from seven miles behind its image.

Treetops, alive with wild critters of all kinds…and perhaps the odd stranded cat. Fair skies splashed with the bright hues of our amusements: kites, model airplanes, balloons, some released to wind’s fancy.

        ...stuff we’ve cast off and the sky has 
        the good sense to throw right back at us.

Stars, comets, meteors and satellites, their pinholes and slashes in night’s black drape so sharp, so unchallenged, you can’t tell if they’re a couple hundred miles away or 23 quadrillion.*

Northern lights, among our planet’s most amazing and serenely beautiful events (and one consolation of living up here above the 45th parallel where earth’s magnetic field starts to weaken).

Stuff falling from on high, like raindrops, in all their manifestations from hovering mist to monsoon dollops; from feathery snowflakes to hailstones the size of baseballs. Soot and ash, and other stuff we’ve cast off and the sky has the good sense to throw right back at us.

What small wonders visit you 

when you remember to look up?

* Twenty-three quadrillion miles (4,000 light years) is the approximate distance of the farthest single star visible from earth 
with the naked eye.


Lee Good said...

I always try and take time to look up at the stars at night, especially when out of the city and I often take my 3 year old grandson outdoors at night too.

Jeffrey Willius said...

That's fantastic, Lesley! Nothing better than contemplating the night sky...unless it's sharing it with a grandchild!! Don't forget to look up during the day too.

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