... back of his ancient subaru loaded with equipment, after a stop to collect roger john pulled up at my front door so i could join in a little mid-winter fun ... driving south towards china lake i played with my new fujifilm x-e1 ...
... we parked the car at the shore of the frozen-smooth surface of the lake ... the temperature was 16°f and dropping, with the brisk breeze bringing to exposed skin an effective chill close to 0°f (for my non-anglocentric friends and fans, that's -17°c) ...
... while john prepared the telescope and roger surmised the smoking lamp was lit, i played some more with my little camera, then enjoyed skipping stones across the surface of the ice ... since i was a small child i've been intrigued by the strange sound that is produced, as if a huge piece of thin sheet metal was being warped back and forth in the wind ...
... jupiter, currently 365,366,259 miles away ... to put that in perspective, at this position in its orbit jupiter is 1,532 times further from the earth than is the moon ... at 186,000 miles per second it takes sunlight reflected off the upper atmosphere of jupiter over 1/2-hour to reach our eyes ... never before seen by humans until galileo first observed them in 1610, the four moons brought into view by his improved telescope, io, europe, ganymede, and callisto, are in his honor called "the galilean moons" ... more than simply expanding our perception of the universe, galileo's discovery provided evidence that was eventually to topple the ptolemaic view of existence ... no longer constrained by a heliocentric model that put our sun, and thus ourselves, at the center of the universe, galileo forced us to take the huge leap towards understanding exactly how vast and complex is all creation ...
... fingers almost frozen, john realigned his telescope to aim at a fuzzily glowing minuscule smudge in the sky just above the eastern horizon ... so distant that it has taken its light over 1,350 years to reach the earth, this is the orion nebula ... a monstrously huge cloud of gas and plasma, thousands of times larger than our solar system, this is a place where stars are being born ... with the exception of perhaps a single stray plutonium atom (provided courtesy one of the countries which open-air tested nuclear weapons, or, possibly brought to our lungs by the wind from a small city either in russia, on the coast of japan, or in pennsylvania), billions and billions of years ago each and every one of the atoms in your body and mine were once contained in such a cosmically huge glowing mass ... i repeat:
... billions and billions of years ago each and every one of the atoms in your body and mine were once contained in such a cosmically huge glowing mass ...
... it was cold, so cold john had a difficult time aligning the telescope properly, and his fingers became numb to the degree that i had to take over the delicate task of focussing the lens ... for sure, the hubbell telescope produces much better images than this, but ...
... but, unlike that most marvelous mechanism orbiting high above us, in the first person we could look through the eyepiece of john's glass, so that our retinas were softly caressed directly by the birthlight of stars ... after, still shivering from the cold as we treated ourselves to convenience store coffee, we continued to marvel at the wonder of it all ...
a lake, frozen over
great cracking noises as the ice expanded in frigid air
music falsetto, stones childishly skipped across the hardened surface
glowing golden porch lights along the faraway shore
car and truck headlamp beams, silent arcing the darkened horizon
purr-purr-purring, our car loyally promising a reward of warmth
far, far, far
so very far away
for us to reach out and touch
beginning us again