I don’t know if you have tried comet chasing every night for a week. A week in which photographers from the world over posted photographs that suggested a flaming, brilliant torch tearing past our heavens with an urgency that made you realize life was short, our journeys spectacular, and a whole lot of poetic asides.
The husband, the bright matter energy source in the household, if anything, shored up even more bright matter to counteract all the dark matter in the universe. His resolve only wiggled a bit when he saw these brilliant flaming pictures of the comet as though it was an olympic torch blazing through the heavens, when in reality, the comet looked like a Pluto after a good cry. (After the astronomer’s good cry, not Pluto’s!)
The son, kept his running commentary on photons, light years, superclusters, cosmic addresses, and the pair of us dreamt on.
The daughter, pragmatic as ever, squashed The Poetic Outlook like a bug under a hippo’s knee. Some teenagers may find it cool to tag along with their parents on adventures chasing 💫 comets: ours rolled her eyes, and the drag of the eye roll did resemble a comet’s tail.
I’d like to think that I was the calm influence that steered the boat into the cosmic oceans. The husband turned to give me an amused look, the son’s laughing rattled the comet to go back into hiding, and the daughter pulled her coolest teenage look of scorn and said the all-encompassing word, “kook!”.
“You know? I don’t see why people are wasting so much time with the skies. I mean, if you do see the comet, I suppose it is nice and all, but what’s the point of sitting there for hours on end and trying to find something hurtling through space. Huh-hmm!” she said, her lips thinning just the way her grandmother’s would. I love it when the mannerisms of her grandmothers slip into her speech in unguarded moments like these, and couldn’t help smiling.
“I mean – what sort of career is that? And what use is it?!” she cried, clearly asking for it.
The son & I, inferior debate companions as we are to her sharp tongue, rose up to the occasion.
“Hey hey hey! Going at the rate we are, scanning the skies may give us an opportunity to find another habitable planet to expand into. The same can be said of all kinds of research – the actual research does not immediately yield results, but every little bit of understanding advances us a little bit further.”
“Yeah – also we need to know where we are in the universe! Are we in Milky Way, Virgo Supercluster, Observable Universe: what is our address?” said the son.
Andrew Z. Colvin / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)
The daughter’s tongue could have sliced an apple in an instant as she rattled off our home address and said, “Why do we need to know huh? I mean, here we are. This is it. Live here, what is all this knowing where-we-are stuff? Waste of time. What is it going to do for us?”
The son & I blanched. You see: the pair of us are dreamers, standing beneath the stars, and endlessly wondering whether we belong to the Lainakea supercluster (is it the same as the Virgo supercluster?) After the observable universe, then what? What if all the observable universe in inside a massive black hole, and time is only something in this space?
“But we are made of star stuff – isn’t that magical? Star stuff!” said the son wistfully.
“Yeah – duck poop is is also star stuff – deal with it!” said the daughter. The son wilted under this argument. The daughter caught sight of my eye looking like an angry comet, and mollified the little poetic fellow. “But duck poop is good star stuff! Heh??!!”
I cannot say the debate went anywhere. It was a disappointing bunch of evenings after all, and the teenager felt it keenly. I mean, when one has posted to one’s friends that they are going comet gazing, and then come back after hours, having grazed on half a luna-bar, there is bound to be a dearth of the poetic.
“You know young lady, I have just the book to cure you of this disappointment.” I said and gave her the book, The Stuff of Stars by Marion Dane Bauer Illustrated by Ekua Holmes
The illustrations in this book make it an absolute treasure. In the past few days, after a clearly disappointing comet gazing experience, I found myself gazing at the marvelous pictures in the book instead.