Jan 13 2011

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Planetary Awareness

Posted at 8:45 am under Blog Post

Recently my doctor prescribed an antibiotic for me that had to be taken four times a day.  I chose four easy times to remember: first thing in the morning, noon, dusk, and bedtime.  My wife Judy laughed when she heard this.  “Dusk?” she said incredulously, “Most people go by the clock.”  Perhaps so.  But dusk is a major event in my day.  Especially during the winter.

Dusk is when the world takes on a decidedly spiritual aspect, when it is easiest to comprehend the simple fact that we live on a planet.  On cloudy days this fact can be overlooked, but a clear or partly clear sky makes it hard to ignore.   At such times, the sun sets in a blaze of glory, the moon shows itself, and the first stars come out.  Sometimes it is quite the show.

At dusk I often stop whatever I’m doing and take a moment to acknowledge what is happening to the physical world.  My dog, Matika, is finely tuned to my habits and usually gets excited around this time of day.  She knows that we’ll be going out soon, and if she’s lucky I’ll toss the ball for her a few times while gazing towards the sky.  But not always.  Sometimes I like to just stand in the middle of the yard, taking it all in.

A few years back, when I dove into astronomy with reckless abandon, I eagerly awaited dusk.  When conditions were just right – clear sky with a late moonrise – I would set up my telescope just as the sun was setting.  While twilight faded, I would print star charts from my computer and map a route to some incredible deep-sky object: a nebula, star cluster or galaxy.  Now I’m not quite so fanatical about my viewing.  All the same, I still cultivate planetary awareness on a regular basis.  After all, it’s so easy to do at dusk.

During my brief sojourn in the Alaskan bush many years back, I enjoyed one sunset that seemed to go on for hours.  It was high summer and sun dipped beneath the horizon with great reluctance.  Then I experienced with full force the reality of being a creature living on a planet.  It might seem like a silly thing to say, but when you truly feel your presence on a sphere spinning on its axis, just being alive in this world seems absolutely remarkable.  The sky is suddenly a window to the cosmos, and planet that you inhabit is incredibly fecund.  Even in the dead of winter there trees, bushes and other kinds of vegetation patiently waiting for spring.  Even when this world seems cold, dark and hostile, the air you breathe seems to be made for you.

This is my planet, I often tell myself at dusk as if uttering a prayer.  This is the exact place in the universe where I belong.  And no matter how alienated I might become during the course of daily events, nothing can take this sense of belonging away from me.  I am a man on Earth and that is enough.  Everything else is superfluous.

One response so far

One Response to “Planetary Awareness”

  1. Deedee Burnsideon 14 Jan 2011 at 1:14 pm 1

    Nice article. Dusk is a reverent time of day! It is always very spiritual for me.