Explorer: NaPoWriMo

Explorer,

what wonders will you see?

As you strike out boldly through the clouds,

spectrometers reading the signs

checking for radio and plasma waves

no dragons in your starry ocean, wine dark,

unmanned, but still the sirens call

(listen)

you sail,

not searching for gold,

not racing for the Northwest Passage,

but pursuing knowledge

taking science, applying it

sharing what you’ve learned—

visions—

(we see them, too)

mileposts and revelations

like life,

weathered,

changed,

scored by the elements,

(floating)

yet I wonder if you’ve heard the music,

of the stars and rings?

Do they chime, do they sing

in contrapuntal melodies,

weaving time and space?

Ancient wisdom there, eternal tides and waves,

(listen)

before you vanish

out of range

(the siren calls)

out of contact

alone,

the explorer

pia20530

“This view looks toward the unilluminated side of the rings from about 7 degrees below the ring plane. The image was taken in green light with the Cassini spacecraft wide-angle camera on Jan. 18, 2017.” Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

 

Today is Day 26 of NaPoWriMo.   I misread the prompt, which was to write a poem about some sort of explorer from the future looking at something here on Earth.  I guess mine is the opposite–inspired by today’s Google Doodle.  I’ve also used Secret Keeper’s Weekly Writing Prompt words: Strike/Score/Race/Take/ Read

Look Around You

Monday Morning Musings:

I saw a van

With the name “Otis”

Neatly labeled on its side.

I thought of elevators.

Of course,

Who wouldn’t?

When our daughters were young,

They noticed the elevators

At my mother’s apartment house

Were made by Otis.

The elevators at my father’s

Were made by another company.

How often do adults observe

Such things?

To us,

The elevators

Were merely useful technology.

To them,

The elevators were different and

Distinct personalities

Leading to new worlds

And adventures.

So many things adults

Never notice

Or pass by

Because they’re commonplace.

I used to sit on the floor

When my children were young,

To glimpse things from their angle,

To anticipate what might be appealing

Or interesting

To their young minds.

Curiosity must be in our genes,

I mean all Earth’s creatures.

Who hasn’t seen an animal explore

What is in that box, bag,

Or hole in the ground?

But humans want to go further.

My husband and I went to the movies.

No, that’s not so far,

But we saw The Martian,

Matt Damon with wry comments

And prodigious feats of memory

Is in survivor mode on Mars.

The Hitchhiker’s Hike to the Galaxy

Says to always carry a towel.

But Matt Damon has potatoes.

And I think about

How ancient peoples

Learned to cultivate the

Toxic tubers.

And make them palatable.

They were grown and

Eaten by the Incas,

Then brought to Spain

By conquerors

Who saw

What they wanted to see,

Who believed they were

In a New World,

When it was merely

New to them.

But they did see potatoes,

Gold of another sort

Becoming a source of fuel for

“The Old World”

Helping to feed

Its people,

And allowing its nations to grow,

While those of the new

Were destroyed

By the conquerors,

Men and microbes.

But exchanges go both ways.

After a time,

The blight traveled, too,

To destroy potatoes in Europe,

And

In Ireland,

Sending more immigrants

From old world

To new.

And helping a

Young nation grow,

At a cost though,

There always is.

Matt Damon’s character

Attempts to conquer

A world that is truly

New–

To humans, anyway.

But it’s a vast universe,

So who knows?

And I wonder about

cross-contamination,

But that’s for another time.

We learn from the movie

That a knowledge of botany

Is important.

So is being able to remember

Past studies,

And to realize

That it often

Takes many minds

To solve a problem.

The movie has fun with music, too,

And I’m reminded of real-life astronaut

Commander Chris Hadfield

Performing “Space Oddity”

Aboard the International Space Station–

One of my most favorite videos ever.

(It’s just possible I’ve watched it over and over.)

Although Capt. Jean-Luc Picard

Remains my ultimate astronaut hero.

What do you mean he’s not real?

Of course he is,

Smart and confident enough

To realize

A child,

Or an alien life form

Might see what others

Do not,

And that “exploring new worlds”

Does mean seeking out

But not conquering.

And music is important

On the Enterprise

And literature

And art

Because these are things that

Make us human.

And our creativity

Enhances our thinking

And ability to solve problems,

Which is important,

Especially if you are ever

Stranded

And left for dead

On an uninhabited planet,

Or anywhere else

For that matter.

I think the lesson,

If there is a lesson

To life,

Is never to stop observing,

To sometimes view things

From a child’s perspective,

And to look at things

In new ways,

And to value your friends

So they will do the utmost

To rescue you

If you are ever marooned,

And to pay attention to every

Little thing–

Because it might save you some day–

And of course,

To bring

Potatoes,

And perhaps a towel.

IMG_2945

“Look at the moon, will you! Tsk-tsk-tsk. Potato weather for sure.”

–Thorton Wilde, Our Town

“It is a mistake to think you can solve any major problems just with potatoes.”

–Douglas Adams, Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

Chris Hadfield sings David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” aboard the International Space Station. Well worth watching.

This Smithsonian Magazine article gives a brief history of the potato.

Aging, Dreams, and the Stories We Tell

Monday Morning Musings

“It is not true that people stop pursing dreams because they grow old, they grow old because they stop pursuing dreams.”

–Gabriel García Màrquez

This past week, my siblings and I spent a lot of time discussing issues concerning my mom, who will soon be 93 and lives in an independent living apartment. She is beginning to need more care, but as she has reminded us, she is still capable of making her own decisions about how she wants to live. We’ve all discovered there is a fine line between concern and overstepping boundaries. At the same time, it might become necessary to—if not step over—then to somehow straddle that line. It is an uncharted course without a captain and only primitive navigational devices. Our simple map is marked, “Here Be Dragons!” We are warned, but necessity forces us on. We proceed with caution. We are at sea, adrift and facing icebergs whose hidden dangers lie far below. We can be slammed by a tsunami of guilt or a tidal wave of recrimination. The sirens sing, but we sail on.

During this same week, my husband and I had a phone conference with a financial advisor to discuss our financial situation in light of my husband’s recent retirement. This planning for getting old, it’s a game of speculation and “what ifs,” but for now, we’re fine.

         Two characters on the Netflix show, Sense8:

Riley: “But what if something terrible happens because of me going back?”

Capheus: “What if something wonderful happens? Eh?”

And that’s life, isn’t it? We don’t know. There could be dragons. But perhaps those dragons take you on a wonderful adventure. There could be ghosts—well, we all look back. We can try to plan for the future, but we don’t know what will happen. The best we can do is to plan for the worst–while actually hoping that something wonderful will happen—because, well, thinking the worst will happen is not much of a life. I go to the gym regularly, but I also enjoy a dessert or glass of wine. It is not “bad” or “good.” It is just my way–to keep my body in shape and to hope my mind keeps pace. Or perhaps it’s the other way around.

On Saturday night, my husband and I saw the movie, Mr. Holmes. We seldom go to blockbuster movies, and we were kind of surprised that so many people were there at the 4:10 show. (My husband pointed out that they all appeared to be older than us.) The movie is definitely not a summer blockbuster. It is not an action movie–there are no car chases, no superheroes or women in skimpy outfits. No sex. It is not really even a Sherlock Holmes “who done it?”–although there is a mystery that the elderly Mr. Holmes is trying to solve. Ian McKellen embodies Holmes, a man whose memory is faltering more every day. Laura Linney as his housekeeper and Milo Parker as her son are also outstanding. It is leisurely, graceful movie that reflects upon growing old and on the regret of things done and not done in life. It touches on solitude, family, and friends—who are the people who care for us and who do we care about it? What happens when a person who has no one gets old? When both mind and body get frail who will take care him? Holmes learns the value of connection.

Holmes, who has spent a lifetime pursing facts, also learns to value the art of storytelling. In this movie, Holmes is real, but for those who have enjoyed Arthur Conan Doyle’s books or who have watched Sherlock Holmes movies or TV shows, he has always been real—as fictional characters are to those who love them. Fiction can impart valuable lessons—it is a different way of imparting and telling truths–and of sharing dreams. Telling stories is part of who we are. Stories help us define our world and slay our demons, or at least put them to rest.

So dragon, come close, let me tell you tale. Have you heard this one?

Embed from Getty Images