Sunday, November 30, 2014

The Year, Wheeling

When I got home from my evening massage last night, Vega was setting, and Orion just rising in the east.

At four this morning, I woke, and realized I'd left my pack in the car. I slipped out of bed and walked out in my bare feet, on the frozen cement, to fetch it: I wanted to recharge my laptop before morning. My eye followed the handle of the Dipper, of its own accord, and extended its widening curve, falling toward the eastern horizon: and there was Arcturus -- my first reminder, this year, that winter eventually turns into spring. The year plays out in little, every night.

(This photo is credited to Stellarium, and edited, if I'm reading right, by one Bob King. It's labelled 10 p.m. in March: well, yes, but it's also 4 a.m. in late November, if you happen to be prowling about at that time of morning. The year wheels over your head as you sleep.)

I'm never sure how much people know about the sky. I was startled last year by discovering that lots of people, perfectly clever and informed people, had no notion of the ecliptic: they had never learned, and never observed, that sun, moon, and planets can only appear in one swath of the sky. I absorbed this with some consternation. Were these people who could see a full moon appear on the northern horizon -- or even the sun -- with equanimity? Would they notice at least a certain strangeness? I wasn't sure. The disquiet has never left me. Because of course I am walking about in multiple inexplicable ignorances, quite as obvious to people who have a good high school grasp of, say, chemistry, or classical music. The fact that, after all these years, I still don't know what sort of stuff potassium is, or what instrument makes that hollow moo, is pathetic. Do I pay no attention at all?


Murr Brewster said...

It takes all of us to know anything. I, personally, keep most of my memories in other people's heads. I'm not that proud of this, though.

Sabine said...

Potassium = bananas but there it ends for me. And I earn money editing medical research papers. Sometimes, it's all about pretending to know. Shameful, I know.

But then again, I think a certain amount of bullshit(ting) adds some lightness - occasionally.

Dale said...

A friend on Facebook posted some helpful videos of potassium being plunged into water: it begins to burn, and then it explodes. Now I'm nervously wondering how much of a fire hazard the bananas in my kitchen may be.

Kristen Burkholder said...

I'm with Sabine. Potassium = bananas.

Instruments that make a hollow moo? I would say anything. Actually I don't want to know. i just want to think about "hollow moo"

thanks for another wonderful post

Sabine said...

I always think it's a hollow moo coming from alpenhorns, those long curved horns with Swiss men blowing into them. But maybe it's just the connotation with alpine fields and cows.

Nimble said...

Potassium is K in the periodic table for as much as that is worth.
I love learning about the visible skyscape but then I forget it easily and have to continually relearn. Certainly would be bothered by sun/moon out of track.