Sunday, November 18, 2018

A monarch and a meteor

It's a mid-30's chilly, a bright Venus, dawn sliding up over the east, Sirius fading over the bay just west of us.

Most of the of the stars have faded out, deferring to the early light.

 A little late to be searching for meteors. And then a spine-chilling, brilliant flash, streaking west. A Leonid.

I had almost given up, except the early morning light itself was wonderful, and I had forgotten (because it is easy for modern humans to forget these things) how deep a joy the early dawn sky brings.

My son and I once waited a long, long time on a very chilly November night, 16 years ago, to see the Leonids, and at dawn we were rewarded--several brilliant Leonids every minute, a spectacular We were seeing dust left from a comet's pass back in 1866.

Yesterday, Leslie and I took a walk along the edge of the Atlantic at Two Mile Beach. The long light of late autumn drenches everything in gold.

I was bumbling around looking for sand dollars, which I rarely find, when I saw a fluttering flash of orange. A monarch butterfly, soaked, wings flattened against the sand, its antennae twisted together like a cartoon.

It was alive, so I picked it up. It grasped my finger and tried to unfurl its wings. The edge of one wing was lined with sand.

We walked it back to the dunes, found a starthistle bathed in sunlight, and (after a bit of resistance) managed to get the monarch off my finger onto the plant.

We took our walk, and when we returned, the monarch was still there, but in a better position, its wings and antennae in better shape. It might still be there now.

And we might be here now, when we choose to be...
Both photos by Leslie.

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Abrogation of the Big K

"It follows from the new definition of the SI described above that, effective from 20 May 2019...the definition of the kilogram in force since 1889 (1st meeting of the CGPM, 1889, 3rd meeting of the CGPM, 1901) based upon the mass of the international prototype of the kilogram is abrogated."

 A last link to a world still small enough to be known by humans
A reminder from 1889 that the world was once real.

A small cylinder of  metal, mostly platinum with some iridium, sits inside a bell jar, which sits inside another, which sits inside a third, like some illustration from a Dr. Seuss book.

To get to it, you need three keys, each key carried by a gnome--well, no, people,not gnomes.

Le Grand K (the Big K), the kilogram, the operational definition of the kilogram, a hunk of metal crafted by human hands in 1889, sitting in a basement just outside Paris.

Electrons had yet to be discovered. the current model of the atom inconceivable.

In less than two weeks the General Conference on Weights and Measures, the Olympics of metrology (and like the Olympics, meet only every 4 years) will gather together and change the standard for the kilogram.

The new standards will be based on "the present theoretical description of nature at the highest level," and the last vestiges of measurement still tied to our direct relationships with the natural world will be severed.

And the Big K? It will be "abrogated," a perfect word for our imperfect behavior, eliminating by decree of something real for something perfect, perhaps the tragic flaw of humanism.

This Luddite prefers imperfect reality to the world we've created.

I get why redefining the kilogram matters, and feeling sad about it borders on the sentimental.
The human world has long drifted away from the natural world.

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Samhain, again

I have spent, in the basest sense of that word, hours
of my God-given life working on a document required of teachers here in Jersey.
That I do these things speaks to a cultural insanity, and mine as well.

And here it is a year later, and I'm doing it again.

Do ghosts exist?

I've lived  long enough to know that they don't.
I've lived long enough to know that they do.

That odd, inexplicable events happen, and happen daily, is evident to anyone paying attention. The shame is that so few of us are paying attention to the natural world, we miss the rhythms and the mysteries that  envelop our modern minds every moment.

Today is All Saints Day, to celebrate the sanctified among us, as though following some moral order could save us from the coming dark, a world in which wasp larvae eat hornworms alive, from the inside out, and humans die monstrous deaths lying in ICUs with multiple tubes pierced into the body, hoping that like St. Sebastian, we will miraculously recover.

If you need a video to be convinced ghosts exist, you don't truly know what it means to know that the dead are among us.

The question of ghosts is not an idle one. We follow spirits of our own making all the time. We follow rules and rhythms of our own making now, wrapping ourselves in a sad cocoon of  hubris, wiling away our hours fulfilling nothing more than deadlines upon deadlines without a hint of irony.

I'm headed out to a mudflat tomorrow, under a wet and wild early winter sky, to rake up a few clams, alive as I am, and as alive as I am, I will be as dead as those clams will be tonight in less than a lifetime.

Until you believe in the ghost you will be, you cannot truly live.
Originally posted 4 years ago. I like rhythms.