Opening to the Universe, part 1

I owe you all a post or three from my recent travels in the Golden State. So here’s just one of the many highlights.

Josephine, my dear friend and east-to-west migrant got tickets for a planetarium show, and I thought, “Cool! I haven’t been to a Planetarium for decades!” I had no idea just how cool this would get.

The Kepler StoryThis show wasn’t JUST a planetarium show, it was The Kepler Story, written by Nina Wise and produced in incredible dome-surround audio-visual amazing magic at the California Academy of Sciences Planetarium. And if you are in or near the Bay Area, run don’t walk to get a ticket, it’s an awe-inducing experience.

The show consists of actor Norbert Weisser playing Kepler as he copes with the waves of change in his amazing life, against the backdrop of the universe, projected on the dome, plus an inspiring original score. It’s the first collaboration of planetarium in-the-round projection and live theater, and it’s intense, emotional and uplifting. The performance aspect is beautiful minimal stagecraft and a powerful solo performance, set against astonishing visuals that range from interiors of great architecture to Kepler’s mathematical imagination to the universe itself.

Nina Wise
Author & Director Nina Wise

Kepler’s personal story is fascinating and pivotal. He lived in the time of Galileo, defied the Roman church, a significant patron of math and science funding at the time and suffered the consequences. His mother was accused of witchcraft in retaliation for Kepler’s intellectual intransigence. He was working with the emerging yet still heretical idea of orbiting the sun, and his lasting legacy is the discovery that orbits are not circular but elliptical — a building block in the theories of gravity and relativity.

Kepler pursued his work with passion, intelligence and faith: not, perhaps the sort that his employers wished, but clearly a great faith in the beauty and harmony of the universe, as well as the god-given power of the human mind to comprehend it.

Coming Soon: Part 2: Opening the Gates of Awareness

From last October: Sandy is Coming

Hurricane Sandy Satellite image
click the pic for “Things Hurricane Sandy Changed for Good”

The end of November is traditionally the end of the Atlantic hurricane season, and we saw no huge storms in 2013. Last year I had just moved, completing a pretty radical life downsizing. I was tired and bewildered and went off on retreat to St. George Island, MD, a tiny sand spit that trails out into the mouth of the Chesapeake. 

I wrote this about the incoming storm: setting-sail-into-the-storm‎

As the weekend went on it became apparent that a big storm was approaching, fated to become ‘Superstorm’ Sandy At the time, I was irked that high water was forcing an evacuation of my hotel, where I had hoped to ride out the wild weather in comfort, watching the water, wind and rain from my little sanctuary.

When I wrote this, I had no idea Sandy would create so much havoc, nor leave such a wake of conversation about our changing world in her wake. I just knew that I was changing, and had to flee before the wind.

author: Patrise Henkel
title: Storm is Rising
for: Herring Creek Writing Retreat — Tall Timbers, MD
date: Saturday, October 27, 2012
word count:  325

Sandy’s coming. Here on this Maryland island high wind and waves are a concern: we are but a slender thread of sand, water lapping at either side. Nevermind that this is called the Potomac; this sand spit thrusts out into the open mouth of the great Chesapeake, where weary ocean crossers once pulled up to rest on terra firma.

A persistent slapping on rocks, strange rocks brought here to make the sand stand still, sings of a great wind to come. Watch the gulls lift off with just a hop they coast on waves of moving air. They watch and wait on the wing. The wind pulses, lifting my hair with a gentle touch. It brings messages from the east, rushing stormward as if eager to join the fray.

But this terra is not so firm: water nibbles away the land, land that resists or yields to the whims of the wind and tide. Before we came and tried to make the land hold still, this island grew and diminished with its own rhythm of destruction and rebuilding.

Now the moon is calling. Tide swells and pushes up forested creeks, seeking the low places, sinking wet fingers into the land, loosening sand between the roots of the great trees, those guardians of the solid ground. Water rising worries the land, soaking, saturating, sucking sand out to sea.

Dry leaves rattle in the oaks. Hanging by their tough stems they flutter hissing in the breeze. Oaks stand tall, their long-fingered roots gripping firm, reinforcing the land.

But I’ve seen the great oaks break: they are tall but hollow, and too rigid to bow before the storm.  I’ve seen the great oaks fall: when earth, so wet it slips apart, yields to the force that can lift a tree into the sky.

Sandy is coming. I feel the rising tide of fear, raising tiny hairs on my neck, calling me to at once come toward and run away.

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