Tuesday, March 24, 2020

connections

“No man is an island…” Nor woman either. Even though many of us feel stranded in a fearful sea, none of us is.

Legions of people are working on our behalf. We have water in our faucets and electricity to illuminate and in myriad ways facilitate our existence. The Internet keeps us quasi-connected , which is better than nothing. I’m still getting my newspapers and the mail delivery people still bundle my mail so I can bring it in with one hand (my left wrist still healing from a break). And a therapist works to make me functional.

Farmers and clerks are still managing to provide sustenance. Television still provides both essential information and diversion. My old cat provides comfort and my vet still provides the special food and medicine to keep him going. My pharmacist conjures needed medication. Texts and telephone and occasionally Skype help us keep track of each other. And new developments, like Zoom, promise new forms of connection.

And do not (ever) discount the wondrous benefits of sunshine and emerging tulips and trees pregnant with thousands of new leaves.

And chocolate.

I have long loved John Donne’s poem, written more than 400 years ago. [And now forgive its myopic gender focus because this particular time and circumstance calls for our acknowledgement and celebration of human connections.]

No man is an island, 
Entire of itself; 
Every man is a piece of the continent, 
 A part of the main. 
 If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, 
As well as if a promontory were: 
As well as if a manor of thy friend's Or of thine own were. 
 Any man's death diminishes me, 
Because I am involved in mankind. 
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; 
It tolls for thee.

Sunday, February 9, 2020

Caramel Sun


On January 30, the New York Times published a remarkable photograph on its front page. It had nothing to do with the nation’s politics, the Middle East or the corona virus. In fact, it looked like some kind of popcorn ball. Perhaps a caramel popcorn ball. 

What it really was, was a closeup of the sun. Each of the ‘kernels’ is about the size of Texas. Each carries heat from the inside of the sun to the outside. When the hot gas cools and sinks, it creates the dark lines separating the cells (or popcorn kernels).

The remarkable image was taken from the Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope atop Haleakala. This ancient cratered volcano is sacred to native Hawaiians who named it House of the Sun in their language.

The photo reveals that the bland yellow orb we in this hemisphere so welcome this time of year is actually a seething cauldron. The solar rays seen during eclipses can reach a million degrees Fahrenheit. Every second, thermonuclear reactions in the center of the sun turn 5 million tons of hydrogen into pure energy.

That energy makes its way outward through boiling gas pocked with magnetic storms that crackle, whirl and lash space with showers of electrical particles and radiation.

Never assume that what you perceive is the whole of reality.