Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Musings in a Time of Crisis VI

. . . It is always sunrise somewhere. . . .
~ John Muir
Naturalist, Explorer, Conservationist, Writer
John of the Mountains: The Unpublished Journals of John Muir

The eye, when it opens, is like the dawn breaking
in the night . . . a new world is there.
~ John O'Donohue
Priest, Poet, Author, Philosopher
Anam Cara


Sometimes we need to open our eyes, look around, and remind ourselves how awesome Earth is, that the same planet on which deadly viruses exist also generates wonders: a "flipped over" iceberg in Antarctica of "vivid green-blue color"; the "chance discovery" of a tunnel in Mexico leading to the Temple of the Plumed Serpent; the natural, pesticide-free way that a South African vineyard, rice paddies in Bali, and agricultural plots in China all find to protect the environment and ensure harvests.

One of the greatest wonders available to us is our own universe, which we can investigate as quickly as our computer will come online. Thanks to NASA's extraordinary technology, especially the Hubble Space Telescope, we can explore, albeit virtually, colliding galaxies, supernovas, black holes, cosmic clouds, comets, the Milky Way, Jupiter, and so much more in deep space that would remain forever unseen but for the images sent back to Earth. Those images currently are collected in NASA's online Universe Images Archive and also featured in the agency's Image Galleries, where we'll find an Image of the Day, an Astronomy Pic of the Day, NASA Image Library, and Mission Galleries. No one can look at these images and not be in awe of God's creation and beauty.

Black Hole Disrupting a Passing Star
Astronomy Pic of the Day
March 24, 2020
Credit: NASA, JPL-Caltech


From here on Earth, however, it is possible sometimes to see the unforgettable, which for me is a night-time trip many years ago through the high Colorado Rockies. Above the tree line we noticed cars were pulling over and people getting out, so we stopped, too, thinking some terrible accident must have happened. And then we saw it, the Milky Way, the galaxy containing our Solar System. It was spectacular to take it in from the mountain top, with no city lights to shut it out. Recently, astronomers have discovered the edge of the Milky Way, which is 1.9 million light-years across—a number we have to hold in our imaginations to realize.


The red-veined darter, a type of dragonfly common in northwestern Europe, particularly England, Wales, and Ireland, is certainly one of the wonders of the natural world. A male, its color is bright or deep red; its eyes, brown above and blue below; the base of its wing, yellow. In symbolism, that red connotes both eternal love and death, a dual omen for the yellow-brown females it must attract.


And, then,  spring—and its promise of rebirth. Spring, which Pablo Neruda said, you "cannot keep from coming."* Who cannot include all the seasons among mentions of wonder? They chart our seasons of life: our joys and loves, our hopes and despairs, our freedom to explore, our maturity and transitions.

* "Podran cortar todas las flores, pero no podra detener la primavera." ("You can cut all the flowers but you cannot keep spring from coming.") During Arab Spring, the words of resistance appeared on Cairo streets; then again in 2017 on posters at the Women's March. I have yet to find the source of this.

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