Friday, April 13, 2018

LOOK UP

photo by Bill Slavin


Three backhoes and a jackhammer snapped and snarled at the ground for the last week. Our neighbors at the top of the hill are taking apart their backyard. I opened our back door to sit in the backyard, which is usually a sanctuary of blooming plants, animals and birds, and stillness. Instead the cacophony washed over me. I almost retreated back inside, but the noise stopped. I could feel the profound silence. No birds called. They had fled and other animals were in hiding from the uproar, leaving me breathing in the quiet. I ate my lunch quickly before the ruckus began again and thought of several examples I had come across lately about the importance of silence.

One morning I tore off the calendar page and found the next quote-of-the-day by Bill Watterson, the artist who drew Calvin and Hobbes. (1)





I picked up the newspaper yesterday to see an article about a very brief film onYouTube called A New View of the Moon by Wylie Overstreet and Alex Gorosh. (2) The film brought tears to my eyes as I watched people react to viewing the moon through a telescope that Overstreet set up on streets in Los Angeles.

Next, I bought a slim book by Pico Iyer, a prolific traveler and writer, who once cautioned that rising populations and the loss of sustainable employment and food would make us all someday live in places like the slums of India and Africa. He has wandered the world looking for answers to his deep questions. He wrote his new book The Art of Stillness (3) so a reader could consume it in one sitting. Iyer, the ultimate adventurer, invites us not to travel from one adventure to another but to seek quiet and stillness instead.

Typical Northern California Altocumulus clouds

Later I listened to Gavin Pretor-Pinney, the founder of the Cloud Appreciation Society,  who is traveling the country speaking about clouds. He wants people to look at the sky and be able to identify clouds. I know the difference between Cumulus, Cirrus, and Nimbus, but I was unfamiliar with a Mama (Mammatus) cloud. They can be found in the Midwest and feature pouch-like formations that look like udders. At their website, (4) you can become a member of the Society, receive their news and videos, and become a cloudspotter. You can even buy a blue baseball cap with a cloud on it. Can't you just see a field of blue caps looking at the sky?



All of these moments in the last month reminded me of being in Japan in August when crowds of people would stop their busy work schedules, set up blue tarps in the park, and spend the night moon-viewing. I am reminded of the large groups of people nationwide last summer who sought places to see the total eclipse. I am reminded of Bill setting up his camera to capture time-lapse photos of the stars last summer. I am reminded of the man from the Midwest who moved back from the West Coast because he wanted to see the Big Sky.

Cloudspotting, looking up at the night sky, and sitting in stillness: activities that illustrate that we all search for peace and understanding of our existence. We continue to ask why we are here. We look up at the sky in wonder. Fifty years ago, the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey led us on an adventure through the vastness of space, reaffirming our insignificant part in the universe and our push-pull relationship with technology. Recent photos of other solar systems dwarf our planet and ourselves even more. In the opposite directions, microscopes show us smaller and smaller parts of life.



So often with our mad-rush lives, we forget how to open ourselves up to quiet and peace and the creativity that follows those moments of stillness. We forget how to be part of the universe. The hints that nudged me in the last month pushed me to get outside in the still of the night and to look up. Bill Watterson said it right. Look at the stars each night and you may live differently. Come and join me, won't you?


(1) http://calvinandhobbes.wikia.com/wiki/Bill_Watterson

(2) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XCrJ3NflOpE

(3) http://picoiyerjourneys.com/index.php/about/

(4) https://cloudappreciationsociety.org

Another Overstreet Gorosh view worth watching: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zR3Igc3Rhfg


8 comments:

  1. From Mary: I LOVED the Moon video. There is so much truth to Bill Watterson’s words. Thank you for sharing!

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    1. Mary, Thanks so much for reading this posting. Yes, the Moon video is touching.I'm hoping to spend more time outside at night looking at the sky.

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  2. From Joe: Love the cloud appreciation in your blog and the clouds in the lovely paintings!

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    1. Thanks, Joe, as a poet, I know you would appreciate the clouds!

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  3. I like your blog. The moon youtube video was great. Thank you. As a kid, I used to look up at the clouds from our farm and make up stories with what I saw. Now, I can do the same thing with my grandchildren....so much fun.

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    1. Thank you, Dot, for your kind words. I'm glad this posting reminded you of time on your family's farm. We used to do the same thing with the clouds -- find faces and figures.

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  4. Wow...tears to my eyes seeing the human reactions. Great post. Was out of town. Missed you and a couple of posts. Catching up.

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    1. I agree, Jan. This video really touched my heart.

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