Today I congratulate you on another successful trip around the sun!
May your next trip be better
so you have to dig your nails into the dirt as the orbit rolls on
all seven billion of us screaming
in harmony as the planets stream past…
one! two! eight!
…the trees torched by friction
the windowpanes shattered
the Rockies worn down to nubs
us huddled in our bomb shelters praying for mercy…
…and when you wake up on your birthday next year,
“My, how the year flew by
and anyway weren’t we just celebrating your birthday yesterday?”
Today is the birthday of my wonderful little sister, Kristin! I wrote this by way of celebration. Kristin, I hope your next trip around the sun is a wonderful one, and lasts longer than 24 hours, because otherwise we’re all going to need a landscaper to take care of all the damage from your wild, wild “year”!
A broken line. A space station accident. Laura died the way she’d lived: unattached and alone.
Obedient to inertia, her frozen form hurled through the infinite void. She flirted briefly with passing asteroids, but lacking mutual gravitational attraction, Laura spurned her heavenly suitors and pressed onward.
Finally she locked in orbit with a yellow star. Stray gases coalesced. She grew, accumulating mass, becoming a planet with a woman’s heart.
And after a billion years alone, she brought forth life: one cell. Alone, like her.
Laura wept inside. A billion years to create life. Only 3.6 billion more until love evolved.
Thanks to Phil Plait’s Bad Astronomy blog, I’ve developed an addictive habit of staring at pictures of space, particularly those from the Hubble Telescope Gallery. These pictures both fascinate and terrify me. I gaze at them and feel like the ground’s falling away beneath my feet, but instead of falling, I’m soaring. It has something to do with the sheer scope of what I’m looking at: a picture of something so vast, my brain has no better way to deal with it than to call it “art”.
I wrote today’s story to capture something of that feeling. It’s a story about transformations: death becoming life and loneliness becoming love after long epochs of time. As a lover of science and a person of faith, I’m enamored by the concept of evolution in a philosophical sense. What does it mean to live in a place where chaos produces such beauty? And what better description of patient love do we have than this slow blossoming of life on our dead little rock in space? Or perhaps I’m engaging in some romantic pareidolia to see such patterns to begin with? I don’t know.
Those are huge questions for my humble little blog, and as I’m not a physicist, philosopher, or theologian, I hesitate to venture more than the questions.
What comes to mind when you consider evolution in a philosophical light? Is it chaos, or beauty, or both?
Liz knew her science fair project would be great. Her teacher told her how if you take a picture of the sun at the same location and time every day, and then put them together, you could see how its position made a figure-eight pattern over the year.
So every morning, Liz faithfully trudged out to the lake and took a picture of the sun until she had a year’s worth. Then she layered the pictures atop each other.
The sun formed a pattern alright. It wasn’t a figure-eight, though. Liz made out a message: Going Nova. Goodbye, Cruel Worl–.
I’ve cheated a bit today. Analemma isn’t a medical term. It’s an astronomy term that refers to the figure-eight shape created when you track the sun’s highest point in the sky throughout the year. The sun’s not really complicit in this process at all; it’s the earth’s elliptical orbit that creates this effect.
When I first saw a photomontage capturing the analemma, I immediately thought of skywriting. Wouldn’t it be interesting if someone trying to document this effect discovered that someone was trying to send a message? Although it’s not scientifically accurate, I decided to write about the sun’s very slow efforts to warn the Earth about its own impending death. Maybe the sun’s lost the will to live after eons of being ignored by the planets in its solar system. Nonetheless, we’d best get a move on before the sun finishes its suicide note, or risk going up with everything else in the nova.
It’s a lonely universe for sentient stars.
Are you interested in astronomy? I’m slowly becoming addicted, thanks to the superb Bad Astronomy blog, written by astronomer Phil Plait (who I also admire for his pro-vaccine activism). Check out his blog for some really stunning pictures and reams of well-written information on astronomy for amateurs and the experienced alike.