Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Mysteries of the Universe

Mysteries, Yes

Truly, we live with mysteries too marvelous to be understood.
How can grass be nourishing in the mouths of lambs.
How rivers and stones are forever in allegiance with gravity
while we ourselves dream of rising.
How two hands touch and the bonds will never be broken.
How people come from delight or the scars of damage,
to the comfort of a poem.
Let me keep my distance, always, from those
who think they have the answers.
Let me keep company always with those who say,
"Look!" and laugh in astonishment, and bow their heads.

Mary Oliver

A couple weeks ago I awoke from a sound sleep. I went to the kitchen for water, leaned on the sink and looked up into the night sky. The moon was waning but still low and full, offering a warm glow on the counter despite the light from the street. Slightly lower and to the left of the moon, my eyes were drawn to a piercing bright light. I was mesmerized, it was shining, strong and brighter than any other star in the sky. I went back to bed, my husband who was awakened by me asked if everything was ok, I explained about the brilliant star that caught my attention.  Groggily, he asked about its location and as he rolled over he said, "must be Jupiter, it's visible to the naked eye this month."  As I lay awake, unable to sleep again I thought about the size of Earth compared to Jupiter. Usually, when I look into the night sky the mystery of the unknown Universe overwhelms me and I realize how small we really are. Now, as I remembered the brilliance of Jupiter's glow, I realized how close and connected we really are.

"We are all connected...to each other biologically, to the earth chemically, to the rest of the Earth atomically. Not only are we in the universe, the universe is in us." 
Neil Degrasse Tyson

I'm not a stranger to looking up into the sky, wondering what's out there. I've been doing it my whole life. For the last couple years, noticing the changing phases of the moon kept me focused, gently encouraging me to stay on my path. I'm drawn to the consistency of its shifts, the constancy of the moon orbiting earth, finding comfort in the lunar cycle. The gravitational pull of the moon and the sun makes the water in the oceans swell, causing a continual daily change of high and low tide. The beach is a place of true solace for me, watching the waves roll in and roll out creates a natural church unbound by walls. During the day there is a wonderful feeling of sun soaked warmth on my skin, swimming or wading in the salt water, and soft ocean breezes. This awake, alive, warm, yang energy of the day is balanced by the peaceful, calming, slower yin energy of evening. I love the beach when the sun starts to set, and the moon starts to rise. Eventide, the blue hour, twilight, dusk, mark the end of the day. There is a color transformation, a dynamic instinctual shift, and a transition in physical sensation as our bodies wind down towards rest. Knowing about the invisible associations of the sun, moon and ocean is another example of how close and connected we really are to the larger universe around us. It helps me to feel one with our beautiful world, to hold space here, living, and being a part of the mystery that surrounds us.

There is a wonderful animated movie I've watched many times with my Dad and my children. I think of it often as it holds a memory of when we were all together. 'La Luna' is a story of purpose, determination, cooperation and responsibility. I love the idea that there can be caretakers of the moon, sweepers of stars, and dreamers of dreams. This movie is a reminder that helps me stay close to my Dad now that he is gone. The moon is a symbol for me, a gorgeous glowing globe in the night sky that anchors me into security. It is always there shining, listening, consoling and comforting. Every night I can look up at the moon, talk to my Dad, and send my wishes out into the universe.

As Joni Mitchell writes, "we are stardust, we are golden, we are billion year old carbon..." I feel it in my bones, this close knit symbiosis. These are the relative connections I think of when I'm struggling. Life is full of challenges, decisions, and obstacles. Finding ways around those obstructions gracefully is a difficult navigation. But, like water moves fluidly, flowing in and around, above, below and sometimes through, there are many paths toward the other side. That sound of an ocean wave pulling in and pulling out mimics the sound of our breath. A beautiful soothing connection that we can carry with us everywhere we go.

If we can see things in the universe that we don't normally see, like the planets visible to the naked eye during the changing seasons on earth, and if we can't see things that we know exist, like the dark side of the moon or new moon phase, how can we rule out the vast possibilities of the universe that haven't been discovered yet? There is so much more to know, to wonder about, and to open our minds in an effort to understand. These objects in space held up by invisible energies, and their constant movements, orbits, and shifts are incredible examples of hope and potential opportunity. I find joy in the curiosity of it all, the sharing of the experience of a full moon, the constellations, a shooting star with my young sons. I want to instill a protective reverence for our planet and awe in its abundance.

"If you will stay close to nature, to its simplicity, to the small things hardly noticeable, those things can unexpectedly become great and immeasurable." 
Rainer Maria Rilke

For the last couple weeks, I've been following the exciting events in the night sky. The three brightest objects are the sun, moon and Venus, which is sometimes referred to as 'the morning star'. As we look toward May, Mars will shine brighter than Jupiter, which is normally the fourth brightest object in the sky.  Later on in the month, Saturn will also be visible as night falls. Our solar system is a magical dance of celestial bodies that light up the sky. The constant movement of the planets, the hidden darkness of the universe, and its unknown secrets open an awareness that our galaxy is not so far far away. It is an infinite appreciation of faith, strength, love, connection, and knowledge. How lucky we are to live on Earth, look up and see the beauty of the universe, the promise of possibility.

As Stephen Hawking said, "Remember to look up at the stars and not down at your feet. Try to make sense of what you see and wonder about what makes the universe exist. Be curious. And however difficult life may seem, there is always something you can do and succeed at. It matters that you don't just give up."

This post is dedicated to my husband, Mark. Thanks for helping me see things I don't understand more clearly, and for having the patience to keep our mystery of love. 
Happy Birthday

This is a great website with a lot of information, click on the Skywatching link for what's visible in the night sky, and the Science & Astronomy link for the moon phases.
This website is a vast source of information from basic to advanced knowledge.

Here are some books we have to explore the mystery of the Universe with our boys!

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