Mars, Stars, Curiosity

19 Aug

She didn’t want to go far, just out of the trees so that she could see the stars. They always eased her loneliness. She thought of them as beautiful creatures, burning and cold; each solitary, bleak, and silent like her.

–Kristin Cashore, FIRE

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Night sky by Michael McDonough

I’ve been thinking a lot about outerspace recently. You know, since the whole Mars thing and all. That quote from Fire is one that resonated with me right away, and that comes to mind a lot. Yes, it’s bleak, but the bleak part isn’t really what I mean. Rather, what I always come back to is the idea of looking up at the stars to ease loneliness.

One of the things I miss most about living outside the city is being able to go outside most nights, and look up, and see right there how expansive the universe is. There’s so much out there. And we can see light from thousands–millions–of years from the past. It makes me feel small, but in a good way. Whatever is stressing me out, whatever’s making me anxious, whatever I might be angry about, it’s not the whole world. It’s one small piece of something so much bigger. And whatever is thrilling me, exciting me, that’s part of something bigger, too. Another line I love is “The universe is not made of atoms. It’s made of tiny stories.” (I don’t know who said it, which drives me crazy, so if you do, leave it in a comment!) It’s calming and centering for me to look up at the stars and think about all of the stories that are out there, happening alongside my own.

And now there’s a machine on Mars shooting lasers at rocks and sending us back photos. A whole new story beginning and one we know through a robot some scientists put on another planet with their minds. It’s incredible.

Think about how many stories are traveling through space together, sometimes intersecting with ours.

Since it’s rare to see a sky full of stars here in NYC, the Brooklyn Heights promenade’s become my go-to place to remind myself of the bigger picture and all the other stories happening around me. Watching the lights come on–bright and silent and beautiful, each its own galaxy–is almost as good.

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Photo by me

listen: there’s a hell

of a good universe next door; let’s go

–EE Cummings

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2 Responses to “Mars, Stars, Curiosity”

  1. Brandi August 20, 2012 at 8:17 pm #

    I remember the first time I saw an image of the supermassive black hole at the center of our universe. I was in Astrophysics, and all my world literally left me. I was filled with such wonder and awe, as if I had come to look God in the face. Stars offer perspective in so many ways and whenever I doubt how incredible I am (or we are), I remember that every atom that is part of our bodies were born of stars, of supernovas, of great crashes and explosions and processes buried deep.

    And the quote about the atoms? It’s apparently Muriel Rukeyser, from her work The Speed of Darkness.

  2. jhunsickerwrites September 14, 2012 at 2:05 pm #

    I love the thought of the universe being made up of tiny stories. I was not familiar with that quote. I looked it up, too, and Brandi is correct that it is from Muriel Rukeyser’s poem “The Speed of Darkness” from the book of the same title. I believe, however, that the exact quote is “The universe is made of stories, not atoms.” I still love the way you worded it, though, along with the image of “tiny stories.” I think that says a lot about how you view the world. Nice.

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