Monday, July 03, 2006
For My Grandchildren
The Fourth of July, a day of purest sizzling gold, of hot dogs and cold watermelon in the grass, lemonades and Eskimo pies, wax mustaches and cannon blasts; wading in the creek in water so clear and cold it makes your teeth ache; parades and flags and brass bands; an evening of fireworks. Enchanted children, barefoot and sunburnt, write their names with sparklers on the summer dark. Fire-flowers bloom in the night driveways, bottle rockets whistle up the sky and fade. Fountains of fire fly up and breaking, drip showers of red, white, and blue. We pop corn and spread our blanket across the front yard grass at night and lie flat out with the earth spinning under us and the stars spinning above. I am reminded of scorching summer nights on the beach where Mark and I walked hand-in-hand, trying not to scare the sandpipers in their dark search for sandcrabs, and stepping carefully across the dozens of silent bodies entwined on blankets, making love, as if we were invisible.
The news this morning said as asteroid called 2004XP14, one of the largest to have flown past the Earth in the last few years, and estimated to be a half-mile wide, zipped past us late last night or very early this morning. Amateur sky-watchers with good telescoes could see it as a small moving dot. It was no threat.
Cosmic immensities perplex me. I grope to define undefinables, to participate in the insistent solidity of rocks, in the unfamiliar air and inviolable patterns of cells and fossils, in the enormous silences of stars. I hear "it" as a deaf person "hears" music by touching a radio and feeling the vibrations. What a marvel is this whirling, clockwork universe! That we are, in fact spinning like a Fourth-of-July pinwheel at incredible velocities. We live in the neighborhood of Perseus, and Auriga, and Orion, and toward the center of our galaxy lies the great starcloud of Sagittarius. I want to shout to the people picnicing on the grass,"Open your eyes! This is our home!"
When you think of the vastness and enormity of the universe, and of the billions and billions of planets and stars, doesn't it make you feel small and insignificant?