To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour…
William Blake (1757-1827), from “Auguries of Innocence.” Subsequent verses are also excerpted from this poem.
Such a week. On Monday, despite the drenching deluge between back door and car, I set out to chase the eclipse. I only needed to go about 65 miles to be safely inside the edge of the Path of Totality. All single-lanes; no crowded interstates for me. I stopped halfway at a wonderful little café/antique shop for some iced tea to go, and my margin of scheduling safety was quickly eaten up by the friendly chatter of the proprietors. In addition to the drink, I left with two tiny framed Victorian miniatures for $5 apiece and some miniature homemade beignets.
Through more rain and breaks of sun, I tooled along woodsy back roads, listening to eclipse coverage across the country via NPR. I stopped just shy of my target point because there was a nice paved spot with an older couple and their equipment set up, and room for a couple more cars. I turned around and joined Mike and Marlene, who had driven up from Jacksonville.
Between our cars, another whipped in – a family from Beaufort, like myself, with two older elementary/young teen-aged kids. They tumbled out from the back seat - the daughter immediately noticing a dead butterfly on the ground, fragile and beautiful. The son, eager for the sky show, negotiated regular glasses and eclipse glasses. (The butterfly was an Eastern Black Swallowtail - it looked just like the one in Brenda's post today.)
Conditions were cloudy, but with our special glasses, we were able to see the crescent of sun and moon. Lightning flashed on one part of the horizon, while sunset hues materialized behind us. The temperature dipped. Crickets chirped. Day quickly turned to night. For totality, we took off our glasses and gazed, amazed at the circle and corona visible to the naked eye even through a veil of cloud. A magical moment of wonder, shared with fellow curious earthlings.
If the Sun & Moon should Doubt
Theyd immediately Go out
To be in a Passion you Good may Do
But no Good if a Passion is in you …
On Tuesday evening, I paused in front of the TV to catch the beginning of the President’s speech in Arizona, before heading to the shower. I didn’t make it to the shower until midnight. I felt like I was driving by an accident scene on a highway – not wanting to look, but unable to avert my gaze. “Unhinged” is the word that kept floating in my mind. Divisive speech, dangerous ideas. I truly felt distressed.
We are led to Believe a Lie
When we see not Thro the Eye
Which was Born in a Night to perish in a Night
On Wednesday night, after catching part of an interview on NPR, I tuned in to a two-hour special on PBS, “THE FARTHEST – Voyager in Space.” I expected to be amazed; I didn’t know I would be moved to tears more than once. Through contemporary interviews with scientists who made it happen and vintage footage, the documentary portrays four decades of discovery, from planning stages to weak signals now received from interstellar space beyond our own galaxy. The interviews got me - those serious-minded men and women who devoted energies and brilliant intellects to such a gamble couldn’t talk about it without occasionally getting misty. How could you? The Voyager images give us not only wonder, but perspective. What a little speck we live and die on, love and fight on.
Each Voyager (I & II) contains a “golden record” – literally a metal record designed to last a billion or two years at least – with images of people and nature and sounds (such as Chuck Berry's "Johnny B. Goode" and salutations in dozens of languages), and pictorial instructions on how to play it on an enclosed phonograph - 1977 technology. The grooves of the record only had room for 100 pictures. When the generators of the small crafts finally do fail, they will be time capsules floating around with this greeting from our planet, which may or may not itself be around at the time the golden record is discovered, if it ever is.
I paused my DVR to write down these words from golden record designer Jon Lomberg: “It was a process of distillation. You can’t describe the earth in 100 pictures. You can’t describe the earth in 1,000 pictures. But what art is about is taking something small, but can represent the whole.”
Isn’t that a perfect description of poetry?
Spoiler alert – the last image in the film is of our home planet, a minute mote caught in a sunbeam and caught on camera one last time before Voyager sailed farther and farther away. Such a tender, tiny thing.
When the Soul Slept in Beams of Light
God Appears & God is Light
To those poor Souls who dwell in Night
But does a Human Form Display
To those who Dwell in Realms of day
[An encore presentation of “THE FARTHEST” is scheduled for Wed., Sept. 13, at 9 Eastern/8 Central on PBS, or catch the streaming version. For the complete Blake poem, click here , and for more of Blake’s art, click here and here. ]
The always curious and caring Jone at Check it Out is hosting the Poetry Friday Roundup today – Enjoy!