Thursday, February 17, 2011

Of Quarks, Coldness, and Creation

Looking Up
Orion the Hunter.  Every night He guards the winter night sky over our home.  Far above the back yard, standing tall and pointing to the northern sky.  In the spring and summer, He disappears below the horizon, preparing the way for warmer summer months.

But for now, it is still winter.  Often, at this time of year, those in colder climes tend to become tired of the cold and dark, and cold.  Oldest daughter of our clan has had some brutal winter weather of late, with 18" of snow overnight some days back; the worst blizzard in Chicago in decades.

Of late, I have been thinking about this winter coldness, of constellations, and of how it all came to be.  It seems nearly beyond comprehension that nightly, hanging above my house, is this amazing constellation with blue and red giant stars, and that light takes 776 years from one star to reach my upward looking eyes.  And just below the belt of Orion, there is a stellar nursery, a place where new stars are being born.  Just the other night, I grabbed my binoculars, went out in the yard, and found, sure enough, found the M42 Nebulah, a place where new stars come to life.  Over our back yard, light years away, new stellar life taking form.  As I look up, I am seeing the night of the 13th Century.  How can this be?

Looking Around
Back down here, on earth, we bustle about our daily lives, with morning and evening, days and weeks, months and years blurring together.  We joke with one another about how "time flies" and how we do not really feel that much older.  But then, something happens that reminds us we indeed have been here quite a while, and the end is out there....perhaps close, perhaps far off.  We don't know.

But that starlight over our yard, some of it took almost eight centuries to reach us.  Fast and slow, our busy world below, and the slow universe suspended overhead, each night.  Our little lives and this immense stellar canopy overhead.  If we just take the time to look.  And ponder it all. 

And so, I stand in the back yard, binoculars in hand in my 52nd year of life on this planet, looking upward and wondering.  And thinking.  How can you live here each day and not be struck by the depth of this creation all around us?  How can you not be affected by this?  How can one be more concerned with sports scores or celebrity lives than by what is really going on here?  By the beauty and the tragedy of it all.  The joy and the heartache in even one day, let alone over the centuries.

Do you have a few minutes to share with me in thinking about such things?  Take a look at the video below, of winter in one of the most beautiful places I know of.  It is the pure beauty, the enormous complexity, and the stunning simplicity of these images that started me thinking about all these things.  Were we created?  Is this all some giant stellar accident?

I wonder about these things.  Daily.

Winter in Yosemite National Park from Henry Jun Wah Lee on Vimeo.
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