Karen and I really appreciate the sympathy and support that we received here, on Facebook, and in person about our stolen car. Thanks. I think the people who called it "mean" best summed it up for me. Stealing someone's car is just a mean thing to do. Human beings sharing this little rock for such a short time simply shouldn't be that mean to each other.
I realize asking a car thief to pause and consider the epochal cosmic perspective might be a bit much.
Luckily, our insurance company is handling it well and we can roll with it financially. As I said, our beloved Honda was getting old enough that we were thinking of replacing her anyway (although we never discussed it within her earshot). So we went car shopping last weekend. Car technology has improved since we bought our Accord 15 years ago. Car salesmen have not.
Today's re-run is nearly five years old. I chose to post it today because it was originally inspired by a sighting of the constellation Gemini, which I happened to notice for the first time this fall a few nights ago. As you'll read, Gemini holds a special place in my heart.
One of the commenters on the original post was "TVDadJim," aka Friend O' the Blog Jim O'Kane, who wrote, "Watching Orion, though, usually gives me something like Galactic vertigo--because I know we're facing away from the cheery fireplace of the Milky Way's core, and out into the inky black of forever." Tell you what, Jim: you head for the black hole at our galaxy's center, I'll light out into the inky blackness the other direction, and we'll see which one of us is in better shape in a couple million years. Your "cheery fireplace" looks like a radiation-drenched gravity-shredding maelstrom to me, but to each his own.
White Sirius glittering o'er the southern crags,
Orion with his belt, and those fair Seven,
Acquaintances of every little child,
And Jupiter, my own beloved star!
I was reminded of that (and of Wordsworth's epic poem, which I studied in college and is one of the few textbooks I've kept all these years) the night before last when I stepped outside and noticed Gemini rising in the east, over beside Orion. I can never look at the constellation of the twins Castor and Pollux without remembering another night almost 20 years ago, right after my wife and I found out she was expecting twins, when I looked up at the sky and smiled because I was looking at their constellation. Not their Zodiac sign (bleah), but the distant suns whose pattern in the sky would always remind me of the happy day I learned they existed.
I'm pretty sure that years later I showed my girls Gemini and tried to explain the significance it held for me. If I recall correctly, they were unimpressed. That's all right.
The reappearance of old friends in the sky marks the seasons for me: Antares, Lyra, Orion of course. My pals Zubenelgenubi and Zubeneschamali, about whom I once made up a nifty ditty.* The fuzzy blotch of the Pleiades that always seems to catch me by surprise. I seek out the tiny, obscure constellation Vulpecula and remember freezing nights spent in a small university observatory doing photometry of a dim nova with my physics professor mentor who found it soothing to listen to WWV time signals pinging on the shortwave. And doesn't everyone have a favorite planet? (When I was a kid mine was Mars but I'd have to say Jupiter now, although I've flirted with Venus from time to time. Saturn's nice but just too ostentatious for my taste; I don't appreciate a show-off planet that tries too hard.)
Being in the habit of looking up at night gives me an agreeable perspective. There's the notion that somewhere out there, someone you're thinking about might be looking at the very thing you are (I believe astronomers call this the Fievel Mousekewitz Conjecture). Maybe even an alien looking at it from the other side, or looking past it at you. There's also the notion I've had while peering through a telescope that at that very moment I might be the only person in the universe looking at that particular thing. And there's always the "eternal circle of life" idea that you're just a point in a continuum of people who've looked at virtually the same moon, planets, and stars for millions of years and will continue to do so for millions more.
No profound conclusion. It's just nice to see Gemini again.
* Sample lyrics: "Zubenlegenubi, Zubeneschamali, yeah yeah yeah!"