tmbt: the moons of jupiter
They are a simple lot, the moons of Jupiter. One, two… oh, maybe three… and four! There it is, off to the right just below Sagittarius. I see it now.
Before tonight, in the local Whole Foods parking lot, I didn’t even know how many moons Jupiter had. But now, after meeting just the rightly-friendly, sky-passioned, well-timed-parking astronomer John, I do! What lovely luck to be trying to go to the passenger side of my red VW Jetta just as John’s big white Astrovan pulled in where I would have liked to be standing. His smiling “Hello, how are you?” was infectious and I smiled broadly back with my “Good, thanks. How are you?” to which he answered in a sort of intoxicated tone something about the stars and looped me into a question about the moon, or rather what was sitting just up and to the left of the moon. I ignorantly ventured a guess of Mars, then immediately knew I was wrong because that bright lovely beemer above the moon wasn’t red. “Well at least you knew it was a planet!” he said, and so pleased by it. Then he pulled out this large set of binoculars and without even really asking if I wanted to join him in his spontaneous sky-bound viewing fancy, he set me up to see the moons.
They were so beautiful! Specks of reflected light all lined up in a perfect row, the proud parent Jupiter leaning back against the cosmos with total equipoise. And at that magnification, what a wonder it was to view the moon, too! The craters and the mountains in the craters… such a wondrous world up there.
John talked about how he’d just been out in some itty-bitty town away from all the lights on a sky-viewing vacation, about how the sea turtles are dying from the light pollution on the planet, about feeling that we are experiencing such crazy times because we are so disconnected from the sky and earth and the seasons, and then mistaking a plane for Venus just like I would do! But then I spotted her! Up there over flagstaff mountain.
I felt like one of the luckiest people on the planet to have been standing there with those binoculars thrust at me by this sweet, exuberant older man with the gray-red beard. I even got a little misty-eyed as I watched Venus simply slip behind flagstaff mountain, first eclipsed by a pine tree, then sinking out of sight, a brief halo following her down.
He’s right, I think – John, about our relationship with the planet and our minds and hearts. We have lost touch as a human race, the “developed” nations pulling at those who are still earth-based towards our elaborate disconnections, those of us who see it not mobilizing enough to change much. Maybe there is little to be changed externally. We will keep building up, up, up, keep adding lights whose beams eventually reach the depths of the sea turtles’ once-pitch habitats. We will keep inventing more and more convenient gadgets and become less and less likely to see our friends and family in a place where we can touch their faces. We will keep fighting over what we don’t really need anyway.
What to do? Look up. Look at the night sky and remember that we are each like a mere piece of stardust. We are fleeting moments of love and depth. We have a right to smile at strangers and are not fools for wanting them to smile at us. We can look down. Look down and not step on the ants. Count our freckles like so many planetary moons. Breath into the whole solar system or beyond, and remember that the incalculable heavenly bodies up there are akin to the incalculable energy particles that hold steady, or not so steady, in this one heavenly body right here.
What to do? Love life enough to offer a stranger in the parking lot at the grocery store a beautiful pair of binoculars… whatever kind you might have, even if it’s just the magnifying mechanism of your smiling eyes. Those eyes hold all the beauty of the world. And a little more beauty in the day may be exactly what every single one of us needs.