Saturday, April 4, 2015

The answer is not in the stars

Somewhere in their condo in Chicago two friends of ours keep what they call The Wall of Good Intentions. It's a space to post sticky notes with things they need to take care of. Sometimes the good intentions—such as sorting through their vast collection of cooking and astrology books which has spilled into the garage—are technically doable but not anytime in the near future, if ever.

Stew and I maintain separate Walls of Good Intentions but mostly in our minds, where usually they remain unfulfilled, there to glower at us for our lack of organization, laziness or inability to get our lives in order.

The corner of good intentions. 
Actually, Stew jots his intentions on a small memo pad he carries around, side by side with grocery lists and other mundanities. And while it might take him a few days he actually accomplishes most of them, perhaps because they are small, manageable tasks, like shining a pair of shoes or disconnecting the room heaters and putting them in the basement.

In my estimation Stew lacks daring and imagination.

My mind floats at a much more elevated level, where grand plans are conceptualized if alas, seldom realized. Some people say I'm unrealistic, maybe a tad neurotic. I don't shine my shoes but commit to do yoga and meditation every single day. I don't sort through clothes that need to be dry-cleaned but conjure up grand landscaping projects, to which Félix listens politely but with a dismissive or terrified look in his eyes that seems to say, "I'm sure this will pass, or at least I hope so."

Stew thinks I'm nuts, particularly because he gets swept up in many of my cockamamie ideas.

Take astronomy, a vast undertaking indeed. Coming home at night I've often paused by the gate and looked in awe of all the stars that dot the clear and impenetrably inky sky over our ranch. While I admire the stars the dogs sometimes run away down the road and Stew has to go find them.

The night skies fascinate me because I never learned even the basics of stargazing, in the order of the Big Dipper versus the Little Dipper.

So, rather typically, I dove into the subject full-throttle: I sent away for astronomy books, borrowed a telescope and a stargazing book from a friend and downloaded apps of the night sky into my Amazon Kindle tablet.

But why stop there, I figured, so I signed myself and Stew up for an eight-hour primer conducted by a former astronomer at Chicago's Adler Planetarium.

Stew put the telescope together but could not fathom how to use it or where to aim it. He was never able to spot even the moon, though I could spy on Don Vicente's ranch, downhill from our place.

Trawling thorough the internet I found various guides for looking at the stars. Also I downloaded the telescope's user's manual which turned out to be useless, written in bad English by someone with a great deal more knowledge of astronomical lingo than either Stew or me.

The astronomy class started out auspiciously, peppered with fascinating tidbits about the stars, planets and galaxies. As the course progressed though, things got more complicated. The last class, when the teacher escorted us through introductory cosmology and concepts like "black holes," "dark matter," "singularity," how the universe is actually expanding and the possibility of "other universes," it all became very baffling.

Perhaps the fatal blow to our foray into astronomy came when we missed the one show-and-tell outdoors when the teacher actually pointed to the sky and named the stars and planets visible to the naked eye.

In turns out I'm not Galileo. In fact, the part of my brain reserved for mathematics and other scientific pursuits has never worked well and if anything, is deteriorating with age.

So—with Stew's help—this morning I put our friend's telescope back in the box.

Come Monday Félix is supposed to hire a backhoe and send for two loads of black dirt for a rock garden I envision by the entrance gate.

Maybe I'll wait. Félix will be relieved if I do.

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