“Once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been, and there you will always long to return.” ~Leonardo da Vinci
Is there anything better than the view from above 30k feet? There is something about witnessing the clouds through an aircraft window, rather than from Earth, that brings me a peace I can’t find any other way. It’s a reminder of how small and insignificant I am. A momentary note about how far we have come, an acknowledgment of our stretching our wings to be more, to see more, to achieve more. It’s a humbling view of the globe in a way that illuminates her possibility. It is freedom. Plain and simple. And I am grateful to be able to venture, to afford the luxury of seeing the world as so many, sadly, never will.
And when the sun sinks, setting the cotton-puff clouds on fire, and the stars begin to appear in the darkest sky imaginable, dozens at a time, there too do I find solace and peace in the heavens, closer than I have ever been to them.
Some people like to feel important, want to leave a legacy, and that is where they live. I feel most alive when I grasp my insignificance in the grand scheme of the planet, the solar system, the universe. That is where I can take my deepest breaths, feel part of something infinitely larger and more consequential than I am. Be detached from the world and in touch with the essence of the universe to which I belong, no greater or lesser than any life that came before or will exist after. I have no fear above the clouds. Only gratitude.
Travel is where I find oxygen. Travel is what unites me with all the other living, breathing entities on this floating ball. Some say there is nothing like coming home. I say there is nothing like leaving home because that is where I find myself,
Meteor showers are like fishing. You go, you enjoy nature. Sometimes you catch something.
I love outer space. I marvel at the vastness of the universe and how I am but a speck on a pebble in the reaches of it all. It’s very humbling. While in college at the University of Colorado, I took a few courses in astronomy, not because I thought I would do well (I’m an English major and was told there would be no math) but because I wanted to learn more about space. So, I studied comets, black holes, and galaxies. I was aided by a friend who knew the constellations and would point them out to me on random occasions when we were out of the reaches of the light pollution of the city. I know what you’re thinking. Isn’t this the gal who used to have nightmares about UFOs in grade school? And yes, that is true. Although the possibility exists that there is life elsewhere in the universe, I’m no longer concerned that said life is in any hurry to come here, colonize our planet, and turn me into their house pet. (As I told my husband the other day, any life form that is intelligent enough to get here and still desire this rock will have no trouble taking it and annihilating us all. They’ve got higher intelligence and space travel. We have Honey Boo Boo. We’d be weaker than kittens.)
In November of 2001, when Joe was six months old and we were just two months beyond the terrorist attacks of 9/11, I read there would be a Leonid meteor shower. The earth would be passing through a dust cloud shed by a comet hundreds of years ago and viewers with a clear, dark sky would see thousands of meteors falling per hour. Shunning all better parental judgement, we woke our sleeping child, belted him into his car seat, and drove an hour east of Denver to a country road in the middle of farm country to catch the show. It was one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen. Meteor after meteor flashed across the sky as my exhausted husband and I stared up through the open sunroof of our Toyota 4Runner, infant son strapped safely in the middle of the backseat.
Yesterday morning as I was perusing some news sites, I noted that our planet is in the midst of another encounter with the Leonids. This one would not be as spectacular, but I didn’t see how I could pass up the opportunity to share the experience with our sons. So, before bed, I announced to the family that I would be waking up at 2:30 a.m. to check for clear skies. If I found some, then we would be driving a small distance from city lights to look up at the stars. I figured that at worst we would see nothing but constellations and have exhausted boys today. Maybe I’d have a tired headache too, but with a gingerbread latte I could live with that.
At 2:30, the alarm on my iPhone began barking (literally…I like the barking dog alarm) and I begrudgingly awoke. I stayed in bed for a few minutes, debating the merits of my great, big idea. I nearly scrapped it on the basis that I had only slept two hours so far, but ultimately decided that I could sleep when I am dead. Steve was still out cold, so I went in to wake Luke as he was the most excited about my plan to begin with. He awoke fairly easily, hopped out of bed, put some socks on with his long-underwear pajamas, and went downstairs to grab some milk for the road. Steve was the next conquest. When I told him I was going to drive off into the night alone with Luke, he decided he should man up and crawled from the bed. Joe at last acquiesced to join us when we told him he’d be alone in the house when we left. We drove 10 minutes west, parked the car on the other side of the hogback from our home, opened the sunroof, and waited. We pulled out the Sky View app on my phone and searched for constellations. We found Orion’s belt, Cancer, Gemini, and Taurus. We remarked at how bright Jupiter was, and Joe reminded us that the Big Dipper is located within Ursa Major, the large bear. The meteor shower was not fantastic, but we each saw at least one or two cross the sky. Luke remarked that he’d never seen a shooting star before, and that made it all worthwhile. At least we were all together as a family in the adventure of stargazing. That sort of memory is priceless, even if the meteors don’t show up.
Sometimes I shake my head at the things I force my kids to do just so I can share with them things that are important to me. I want them to view the planet and the universe with wonder and appreciation as I do. Something about the unfathomable expanse of space puts everything into perspective when life gets overwhelming. Although the meteor shower last night was less of a shower and more of an occasional raindrop, no worries. I read that the Geminid meteor shower will occur on a new moon on Thursday, December 13th, and it’s predicted to have more than 100 shooting stars per hour. If our boys aren’t at school on December 14th, you’ll know why.
When our oldest was a toddler, we began to suspect that he was a fairly sensitive child. As soon as he began to talk, our suspicions were confirmed. He seemed to pick up on emotions and parental concerns more quickly than most children his age. From the tender age of three, he began asking the tough questions (about God, natural disasters, death, etc.). We would do our best to answer them, never talking down to him but making our answers as palatable as possible for his preschool mind. Without fail, two or three days later, he would return to ask a follow up question to our response, proof that he had been pondering our answers ever since we spoke them. He would sneak attack us with his concerns about the world. Our friends and family would often comment about what a sensitive child he was.
I’ve never liked the term “sensitive.” Never. Maybe it comes from my family. When I was Joe’s age, I would be whining and carrying on about something. My mother would make tiny circles between the thumb and forefinger of her right hand and ask me if I knew what that was. It was the smallest record player in the world playing, My Heart Bleeds For You. Sometimes, just to mix things up, she would break into Cry Me A River instead. I suppose that for me, then, sensitivity was equated with whiny weakness. So, I would not allow myself to go there. At the mention that our Joe was sensitive, I bristled. I decided I could not live with that term, even if it was the truth. So, hubby and I opted instead to tell people that our son was a “deep thinker.” He is. He doesn’t cry easily or often, but he ponders the mysteries of the world often and deeply.
This morning I was in the midst of a drawing game on my iPhone. I regularly draw a scene in the Draw Something app and then immediately question whether or not my friend will be able to guess the answer from my substandard artistic attempt. My litmus test consists of sharing the drawing with either my nine or eleven year old son to see if he can guess it. If he can get it, I assume we’re golden. So, that’s exactly what I did this morning. The word I was drawing was “iceberg.” I suspected that my crude iceberg might be lost underneath the very rough drawing of a polar bear standing on top of it. So, I went to my review committee.
“Joe, what do you think this drawing is of?” I asked, covering the answer at the top of my screen so he had no hints.
“Ummm…ice? No. Wait. Is it global warming?”
Holy crap. Really? That’s where we’re going with this drawing?
“Why do you think it’s global warming?” I queried.
“Well…the polar bear is on a piece of ice but there’s no other ice near it. There is water all around. The polar bear looks like he’s stuck.”
Wow. Did not see that coming.
“That’s a little more thoughtful of an answer than I’m looking for here, Joe. Look again, please.”
“Oh…is it iceberg?” he said, finally noticing that I had drawn an arrow to the item the bear was adrift on.
Ding. Ding. Ding. We have a winner.
Later, on the way to school, Joe dropped this light thought on me. Keep in mind that I was less than 1/4 of the way through my morning non-fat latte.
“Mom…you know how people say that space is the final frontier?”
“Ummm…sure,” I replied without a clue as to where this had come from or where it was going.
“I think they’re wrong. I think the final frontier is actually time travel,” he informed me.
“That’s a pretty deep thought to have before 8 a.m., Joe.”
He sat silent for a while and then chimed in again.
“My teacher told the class the other day that we’re all deep thinkers. I think she’s wrong. I don’t think any of them are deep thinkers like me.”
That comment proved it. The phrase we had coined to cushion his ego had actually puffed him up. Suddenly, not only is he not weak, he’s actually got more honest depth than most other people on the planet. Apparently, we accomplished our goal. Our son’s sensitivity is not an issue. He doesn’t even notice it. But, now we’re going to have to do something about that haughtiness.