dimanche, septembre 17, 2006
One of the things they don't tell you when you have children is that, from the time they are born until they move into a college dorm (you hope) you are going to pick up whatever kind of virus happens to be going around their daycare or school. When I heard their dad's sniffles on the phone several days ago, I said resignedly "oh, you have it, too." But as it happens, even dry throats and stuffed noses have their hidden blessings. Awakening achy and irate around 3 a.m., convinced that sleep would be elusive, I searched under my pillow for the glasses without which I am practically helpless. As often happens, they were nowhere to be found. But as I looked out the bathroom window, I could see a brilliant light in the sky...a planet? A plane? The moon? I walked back into the bedroom, found my glasses, and gazed out the window at the gleaming grass and the quiet shadows of the trees. Lifting my eyes to the heavens, I was stunned by the brightness of the pre-dawn sky. That bright light above the trees turned out to be the crescent of the waning moon, silvering the trees and illuminating the well-watered lawn of my neighbor and his apple trees, where the deer parade like dogs to munch the fallen fruits. Ahead of me the Big Dipper gleamed towards the east-the Big Dipper, part of the constellation Ursa Major, is not technically a constellation, but an asterism (an interesting star pattern.) I must admit, at this point, that I was exultant just to be able to recognize the Big Dipper...I had no idea about the names of the other stars. As a plausibly well educated adult, I am embarrassed by the things I can't name-planets, flowers, capital cities, former Presidents. Having made rather a specialty of emotional literacy, I have neglected the abcs of the more basic knowledge that links us to one another. Some of us get away with this for years-some get found out by their kids. As a mother of children who are still reasonably young, who soak up knowledge like young plants soak up the rain, I am particularly aware of my ignorance. I resolved, as I stared out at the starry night, that if I came across a phenomenon that raised a question in my mind, instead of trying to obliterate it, I would attempt to discover some kind of answer. This morning a couple of screens of Internet inquries led me to a site called Astronomy for Kids. There I read that the Big Dipper is very close to the Pinwheel and Whirlpool galaxies. There are also several double stars in the Big Dipper. Take your telescope outside your country house on a clear night and you should be able to see both the galaxies and the double stars. If you don't have a country house, find a friend with one-a view of the heavens undimmed by the lights of malls and developments is well worth a bribe of chocolate, flowers, or a nice meal. By the way, we earthlings reside in the Milky Way galaxy- a spiral galaxy which contains, clouds of dust and gas (nebulae), planets and asteroids. It takes 250 million years for our sun to pull us through one revolution around the center of the Milky Way. But enough of this...if I told you everything I know about the planets, we'd be here all night. Or at least another five minutes! Now, can anyone tell me why up until the early Renaissance so many painters portrayed Jesus and the saints as looking so expressionless? This question fllitted through my mind in worship this morning as I looked at stained glass window of Jesus with his arms extended to all of us-but I didn't want to raise my hand and interrupt the preacher's sermon.