Here Thar Be Monsters!

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17.3.17

The World Late And Soon

The world is too much with us; late and soon, 
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;— 
Little we see in Nature that is ours; 
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon! 
This Sea that bares her bosom to the moon; 
The winds that will be howling at all hours, 
And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers; 
For this, for everything, we are out of tune; 
It moves us not. Great God! I’d rather be 
A Pagan suckled in a creed outworn; 
So might I, standing on this pleasant lea, 
Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn; 
Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea; 
Or hear old Triton blow his wreathèd horn.

When William Wordsworth penned this lament of the Industrial Revolution in 1807, he could not imagine just how materialistic and divorced from Nature we humans have become.  It never ceases to amaze me how little we modern humans know of the Natural cycles and processes that feed, cloth and sustain us.

I recall an incident in 1996, when Comet Hyakutake rolled through the Solar System putting on a rather amazing display during closest approach to Earth.  One evening, I was laying out on the lawn with my binoculars and camera capturing images and observing the comet.  It was early evening and a group of neighborhood kids had gathered around trying to figure out what I was doing.

"What are you looking at," one asked.  As I glanced around at them, I was truck that not one was looking up to see what was clearly hanging over their heads.

"Comet Hyakutake," I replied, pointing up at the glowing object stretching nearly 1 degree across the sky.

"What a comet?" one asked.  Only two or three of the dozen or so kids actually followed my pointing finger upwards.  I was floored, or at least grassed.

These were all school-age kids who apparently had not heard anything in school about one of the most dazzling cometary displays that I could remember, much less they.  When I was in school, at least the science teacher would have made a whole series of lectures on the subject and assigned us to go out and observe the phenomenon and make a report.

These kids had no idea the comet was putting on such a display, nor even what a comet was.  And so was born Uncle B's impromptu astronomy class.

For a week, we met on the lawn at sundown to note how the comet had changed, moved and behaved.  We looked through the large field binoculars I owned and kept an observation log with drawings and notes about our observations.

They were awed, as was I.  Me, not so much by the comet, which was truly awesome, but by the ignorance of these children who ranged from kindergarten to fifth or sixth grade.

Perhaps, I reasoned, growing up on a farm with infinite dark skies, no TeeVee or games or devices and a rather nice telescope I had gotten on Christmas,  Maybe I was an aberration, an exception.  But my peers were equally informed, even if they didn't have an interest to sit out on cold winter nights and stare at the Universe.

Many of the children seemed completely unaware that there was a sky, much less that it was full of things to look at and that moved around on schedules that were years, decades or even centuries long.  Not only did many of them not follow my pointing finger, I had to prompt them to look up.  The comet was quite obvious, even in overlit city skies at sunset.  It was one of the most arresting sights in the night sky I have ever seen, not to mention in that March of 1996.

Later that year, I noticed two families on the street had shiny new telescopes and could occasionally be seen out in the yard watching the Moon or planets.  I felt gratified that I had opened some horizons for at least a few people, and several of the kids would occasionally wander by to ask if anything fun was going on "up there".  Since they asked, I assumed they weren't doing any independent research, but at least they were now aware of something called "the sky".

I could go on with dozens of similar examples: how I taught my wife gardening and to plant seeds during the New Moon and harvest during the Full Moon.  She's become an obsessed fanatic about gardening now, loving the daily changes in plants and the satisfaction of eating things she nurtured from seed.

Of my own children, one is an animal lover and operates a pet grooming and training service.  He got that from the dozens of exotic pets we kept when he was growing up, such as snakes, gerbils, rats (snake food), turtles, a Great Dane and a Basset Hound, and others I've since forgotten without looking through the photo album.

The other loves mountain, jungle and ocean environments.  She leans more to the artist side, like Dad, but has gone on dives, jungle excursions and mountain hikes, and prefers the more natural settings of Austin or Denver, to the industrial life of Houston.  Perhaps she was influenced by our annual treks to New Mexico to explore canyons, mountains and rivers.

They both know about the mass extinction known in geology as the K-T Boundary.  We would stop along the highway road cuts in West Texas to notice that in one layer, there were millions of sea shell, plant and fish fossils, then a thin white line, then above it...nothing.

The point of all this is that anymore the schools are worthless and the gee-gaw tech distractions are multiplying like rabbits, but with very little effort and a lot of fun, the Universe will teach anyone willing to listen.  We stumble over it, walk past it and live under it every moment of every day if we stop just for a second to notice.

The world is too much with us, late and soon!  Why not set aside some time in Life to unplug, sit back and just observe the glorious pageant going on all around us for free!  We bought our ticket at birth and it's good for a lifetime.  There is nothing a movie or gaming studio can produce that is even a fraction as amazing and entrancing as a simple bug crawling across the floor, like that cockroach in the corner I need to go stomp on.


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