On November 10, 1975, a wild winter storm was welcome incentive to stay indoors and study. A friend called me the next day to tell me his boat had sunk. We shared our memories of that crummy little boat. Then I told him about the sinking of the Fitgerald and we fell silent, the phone line crackling the way digital lines do not.
I grew up in a family obsessed with marine history in general, and Great Lakes shipping in particular. No wonder; these enormous iron ships passed our home day and night, sun and fog, most months of the year.
Nearly silent, the behemoths carried iron ore, limestone, coal, and grain. Unlike ocean-going ships (that we called ‘Salties’) these freighters were long, low lying, with pilot house fore and crew quarters, engines and tall smoke stack aft. The length of the ship held hatches filled with bulk cargo, usually iron ore or something used in the processing of it.
Living on a river with ship traffic leaves an indelible imprint on your imagination. The world sails by your door every day. The Norwegian flag, Russian sailors, the Queen’s yacht, Canadian ice breakers, Japanese cargo ships, and iron ore: day and night the red earth that became the cars, trucks, girders, refrigerators, screw drivers and kitchen sinks of our modern lives were moving past my door.
If there was one freighter that everyone loved, it was the Edmund Fitzgerald. Why? She was friendly! The Edmund F. would salute you with a long-two shorts whistle if you waved at them or whenever they passed the San Souci Bar, the pinacle of cultural life on the Island. Most ships were business-as-usual, but you could count on a ‘hello!’ from the Fitzgerald, every time.
In ancient times, (or when I was in grade school) the planets were very smooth, like billiard balls. We had no detailed images, only descriptions of what they might be. Images of the galaxies and nebulas were quaintly fuzzy.
Over the past 40 years we humans have sharpened our focus. The Hubble Space Telescope and numerous planetary explorations have yielded not only amazing data but astonishingly detailed images as well.
Dramatic view of the Pluto system as NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft flew in for close-up on July 14; then passed behind Pluto to see the atmosphere glow before watching the sun passes behind Pluto’s largest moon, Charon.
Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute/Stuart Robbins
Watch this a few times and enjoy the ride: how you find the bright dot in all that darkness, spiral in, and then glory in the uniquely Plutonian landscape. This, the orb that had it’s planetary status revoked!
(You may find it odd that I am adamantly pro science and still hark to astrology, but consider hearing me out. The following gives a cultural perspective on the ninth rock from the sun.)
Astrologically Pluto has a profound gravitas, the inescapable resonance of the everpresent but unseen, representing our own soul.
Prominant Astrologers had some interesting things to say about Pluto’s change in status.
Scientists no doubt had sound, rational reasons to exile Pluto from the traditional solar system and transfer its realm to the Kuiper Belt with the other dwarf worlds, but they were also under the influence of deeply unconscious forces too. The expulsion of Pluto marked a symbolic turning point in the triumph of scientism, a mode of thinking that values only what’s visible, measurable, and categorizable. But Pluto is more than the rocky planetoid representing it: Pluto is an essential phase of human consciousness.
The overall downgrading of Pluto is a milestone in the modern attempt to depreciate the soul’s mode of awareness and make it subsidiary to the deductive mind. To banish Pluto is to deny that living in the soul has any value to us.
The god of the Underworld, was amused by being called “Dead as a planet.” “Of course I’m dead, I’m the god of the dead.”
And used to being dissed, exiled, albeit at tremendous cost to cultures that do so. Of course human dementors would like to stick their fingers in their ears, and say, “no, no, no, we deny the invisible. We deny the dead, the invisible, the principle of power, the abuse of power known as plutocracy, now rampant.” Death is cheap, not valued, marketed wholesale, so that even the god of death is appalled.
“I like to run at night in the summertime because it’s nice and cool. As I’m running, I’m thinking about work and the discoveries that we’re making. I look up at the stars. And in that split second, just that fraction of a second when I first saw not pinpoints of light, which are stars. I saw planetary systems. I saw solar systems. I saw other planets out there. It’s really hard to articulate that kind of an experience. It’s something very personal.”
Natalie Batalha hunts for earth-like planets beyond our solar system. A research astronomer at NASA Ames Research Center, she heads the Kepler Mission. In its first four years, the mission confirmed over 100 new planets — but the search for one just right for life continues. Early interpretations of Kepler data point to as many as 17 billion Earth-sized planets in the Milky Way galaxy alone.
From the movie Noah comes this retelling of the Genesis creation story, which warms my earth-loving feminist heart, as it doesn’t demonize either the Serpent or the Woman. What is forbidden is the Knowledge of Evil, there’s no telling the gender of the fruit-picker. But those who carry out the murder of their brothers appear to be not-women.
I doubt neither Darren Aronofsky or I really seek to blame men for violence, but for me, it’s important lift the burden of sin off of our foremother Eve.
In the narrative of the film, the snake’s skin becomes a sacred symbol of inherited wisdom. One critical Christian web site called it ‘the skin of satan.’ Noah uses the skin in his son’s initiation, when he tells him the creation story. He wraps the skin around his arm and it merges with him, turning to a spiral energy pattern that looks an awful lot like DNA.
In the Wiccan philosophy, the Serpent is a wise and simple creature, one that sheds her skin when it is outgrown, and begins again. The snake biting its tail, the Ouroborus, is an ancient symbol of infinity and the cycle of life.
So I for one was thrilled to see a version of the story that didn’t blame the woman or the snake.
New tiny cameras and flying drones are making remote filming possible in new ways. Take to the skies with these airborne film makers:
Aerial NYC – Randy Scott Slavin
So many drone vids are choppy and unedited. This one is a pleasure, a ride through the city smooth as a spring breeze. Mr. Slavin may have mail ordered his drone, but he has honed his flying, filming and editing skills to a fine degree.
Eagle flight in Chamonix, FR
Devoted French naturalist Jacques-Olivier Travers is working to bring back the White Tailed Eagle, the largest native eagle in Europe, nearly extinct and not living in the wild since 1959. Working with birds in the ancient falconry traditions, he raises and trains White Tails until they are ready to release. A feature film about his work is in development, and you can see more about the project HERE.
Cornwall: A Birds Eye View
This is a shameless tourist vid for VisitCornwall.com, but it’s a treat, at least for an anglophile like myself.
Today I bring you a tribute to the engine of the life, something that if you’re like me, living in the Northern Hemisphere, you have been outside celebrating in recent days. The cherry trees are opening their blossoms, the lambs are cavorting on greening pastures, and everyone wants to be outside in shirtsleeves, taking in the bright sun.
Mr Latimer’s bottle garden was planted 53 years ago and watered once in 1972. It thrives on sunlight alone, due to the balance of oxygen from bacteria (animals) and CO2 from plants exchanging moisture and nutrients. It’s a microcosm of our planet, which acquires nothing from outside our atmosphere but sunlight (well, the occasional meteorite, too) yet air and water circulate between our lungs and the green plants in a wonderful harmony. You can read more about this HERE.
The light of the Sun is what makes this go. Here’s a simple diagram of the exchange.
Some of you may remember the challenge of tracking the whole business in organic chemistry — you might remember it as being complicated, and chemically, it’s pretty amazing and intricate. But the way it works is a simple exchange, and because it works, we all get to eat! I don’t know about you, but I find this bloody AMAZING.
Here, this is even simpler:
See that second half of the equation? The sugar is the source of ALL THE FOOD WE EAT. Even if you are a carnivore, the animals you eat grew up eating plants. We are all eating sunlight, by virtue of the photosynthetic process. And yeah, we get to breathe the oxygen. Pretty convenient if you ask me.
Illustrator and recent Sheridan College graduate Adam Winnik created this video for his final thesis. He takes Carl Sagan’s inspiring words, that he refers to as “scientific poetry,” and combined it with animation and music, to great effect.
We’ve enjoyed another respite here in this magical place. I visited friend Elizabeth, proprietor of NM Artists for Hire. Her work brings artists into the community for special events, self expression and healing. We enjoyed walking the old town with Elizabeth as our guide, particularly admiring the churches.
As artists we all had interesting projects to share. I was delighted that my friends Elizabeth and Jose shared their enthusiasm for feminist and contemporary art. Although Elizabeth had to go to work, she urged us to be sure to visit Site Santa Fe.
I loved the show – and especially Linda Mary Montano’s exhibit , in a way I haven’t connected with conceptual and performance art before. First of all Site Santa Fe has a commitment to engaging and educating its audience. With their mileiu of contemporary art, too often people come and don’t know what to make of the work. The gallery guides are trained to interact with patrons in a way that bridges understanding, making challenging works more accessible.
If you are used to contemplating museum art in splendid isolation, it can feel a bit like being interrupted while shopping by a helpful clerk. But I went in knowing this about the facility and I engaged the guides as well. It was odd at first, and then wonderful to know I could ask (dumb) questions and get helpful response. For instance, there were quite a few videos in one part of the show, and one of them was mostly static. I asked without fear if this was the intended work, or a technical problem. Turned out it WAS a bad DVD!
Art is deliberately challenging, especially contemporary, conceptual and performance art. SITE Santa Fe has created a good model for helping people find their way into the work, where the museum staff are not just silent guardians, but there to enhance your experience.