At the trailhead — again.
I’d circled back after the first fork in the path.
No, I’d said to myself, don’t just trudge ahead guessing at the route to the overlook. From the clear plastic box at the bulletin board I pulled out a worn edged, folded copy of the trail map.
This had been used before, it said, in photocopied etchings and softening edges and creases. Used probably multiple times, in fact. Wasn’t the only copy, but it may as well have been, it said. Just enough copies for the hikers out there today, if they needed it.
I needed it.
I kept thinking about the map in my back pocket, unfurling it carefully with sweaty fingers at each new fork in the road. I’m not the first person on these trails, the map said. If it had been a clean copy of the map I wouldn’t have thought as much at all about it — but instead, I was determined to return it to its plastic box again, to pay the map forward even further, betting that it could guide someone else.
Its frailty helped define its purpose — to be used here, not taken back down in the car out of the parking lot. Make something more like this, to begin with, if you want it to be recycled more often. Something to borrow. Signal its virtue of impermanence.
There’s an old adage — okay, actually it’s not that old, to me at least — about offering help. To help someone or something else will ultimately help yourself, too, if you keep your eyes open. Not too eagerly. Not in charging credit against your karma. You approach the offer selflessly. And while maybe not right away, there will be a form of reciprocating.
In clearing out old shelves in the closet, in those deep recesses of the upper reaches of the attic, I excavated a few sheets of paper from a few decades earlier, sandwiched between my old binders. I read them with the fresh eyes of an archaeologist re-discovering his own past life.
Only vaguely could I remember this letter from a friend. But I remembered the period — mid-adolescence, early-high school, still-early-internet. When we were eager to learn about mysteries but the world hadn’t quite yet shifted to let everything fall through into microcosms of rehearsals of false beliefs.
I remembered the domain name I wrote down at the bottom of the sheet, like a second signature. Something prescient and important but surprisingly antiquated (the domain was defunct and for sale).
Records of the raining embers of the Lyrids begin over 2,700 years ago, first reported in Ancient China. Tonight, and into the dawn morning, they will peak once again as our earthly path encounters the orbital dust trail of the Thatcher Comet. With an orbital period of 415 years, the comet was only first seen in 1861.
What a gap between observation and the discovery of its cause.
The space probe Pioneer 10, launched in March of 1972, is headed now in its retirement toward Taurus — falling through the cosmos on a journey of thousands of years before it reaches the neighborhood of stars in this stubborn constellation.
Pioneer 10 carries a golden, intergalactic postcard with a return address to the Earth, designed by Carl Sagan. I like to imagine a Taurean consciousness attempting to translate the scientific symbols. What sign does Earth sit within from their perspective? Perhaps Scorpio, or perhaps something we can’t quite yet translate.
The return address is based on the nearest pulsars to Earth, a sign all its own:
“If you run a simulation and do a proper calculation, you’ll find that Mercury, and not Venus or Mars, is Earth’s closest neighbor on average (and spends more time as Earth’s closest neighbor than any other planet).”
While Mercury’s neighborly average wins over time, Venus occasionally bests, saddling up alongside the Earth as the brilliant sister-planet. But in order to achieve that loving proximity, it also — and it must — delve much further and deeper beyond the Sun, beyond Mercury, beyond reach. To get so close it must also travel so far away.
To understand home, one must journey to a distant elsewhere.
Is proximity briefly met — or in greatest duration — the strongest measure of love?
A blue moon is the second full moon within a month.
But what might we call a second full moon within the same sign?
Tonight (as ever), we can marvel at something perhaps even richer and perhaps not full named — a sequel lunar maximum squeezing by at one-hundred-percent in the last degree, minutes and seconds of Libra.
The Balanced Blue Moon?
I sat for 30 minutes, breathing, thinking, and then breathing again.
The bell dinged just as I had begun to scan and I was upset — it was just starting to get easier.
But that frustration was merely another thought, and I didn’t have to follow it.
When I returned to the desk the sunlight illuminated the screen, showing every atom of dust that was otherwise invisible before in the dark contrast of midnight.
To notice the static and dust, and merely by noticing, beginning to filter the noise, was one of the methods of mental maintenance.
The pattern was unavoidable, inevitable. Be willing to notice, be open to really perceiving the static, rather than trying to force your way through it to what it obscured.
On the phone, first hearing about the disappearance, and then the hen’s death, I held my composure. But then afterward, in the quiet, I realized I’d held her, and fed her, and ushered her into and out of her spaces like a game, and I was sad.
There was a time when I exerted considerable effort to avoid spoilers to certain films, ones I knew I would be watching, by covering my eyes and ears in previews and avoiding reading anything about the film at all costs. It was like traveling somewhere without knowing the famous landmarks. There would be more surprises, sometimes, but also less initial recognition. Modern trailers, when you are less inclined to be a purist about experiencing a storyline a priori, were cartographic narratives.
There’s another kind of film, though. Made of the redacted or edited trailer shots that don’t make it into the final cut of the film. In my youth, I’d watched and re-watched the film trailers more times than I could ever possibly have watched the final film itself. So when those cut scenes should have appeared in the final film, I’d have a small recognition of what was missing. An expected film that only existed in a timeline of my mind.
The astronaut returns from space and writes a book. In it, he recounts that being a good astronaut isn’t about going to space, says the astronaut. Successful astronauts make good decisions with limited information and time. So we are all potentially astronauts, then.