For various complicated reasons, I had to take a cab home from work tonight. The cabbie mentioned that we were supposed to get rain soon. I took this as good news: even the cacti in my front flowerbed are looking a bit peakid, and the SoCal skies are always cleaner and more transparent after a rain. I asked when the rain was due, and he said maybe as early as tonight. That is not fantastic news, because I had hoped to watch Algol go through its minimum tonight and thus check off the 100th item on the AL Urban Observing Club.
When I got home, I learned why the rain is coming in tonight. A long skinny box from Oceanside Photo & Telescope was waiting for me. In other words, the New Scope Curse has struck again. So if you’re a SoCal stargazer and you’re wondering why, after a fortnight of clear skies, we’re having rain: I’m the jerk.
I have some catching up to do here, but not a ton. Basically since March I have been out of stargazing, except for a quick peek or outreach here and there. In addition to teaching, which goes on every year, I’ve been shepherding a record number of papers (for me) through the publication process, writing a book, and gearing up for my tenure application. To be honest, it hasn’t been super fun. Like Bilbo, I feel thin, like jam scraped over too much toast. The lack of stargazing is just a symptom of that larger problem.
But things are looking up, metaphorically and literally. I will be in the anatomy lab until the last week of this month, but I have given my last lecture and written my last exam question for this year. My tenure application is almost done, and so is the book, which is good, since the former is a little past due and the latter is due at the end of this month.
And I have rediscovered something that I had forgotten for too long, which is that stargazing is therapy for me. In the middle of town, it puts me in touch with nature; in a career that keeps me on the computer for most of the day, it gets me off the grid (even if only by twenty feet); amidst the crowds and busyness of life it is a little space in which to be alone and at peace. I need to remember that, at least for me, a telescope is a device for seeing farther both inwardly and out.
I will have more to say soon about my return to stargazing and the contents of that preciptation-precipitating box. For now, I am just glad to be back.
The photo at the top is from our Arizona vacation in May, on the Sunset Crater/Wupatki Ruins loop road. That’s 300-million-year-old limestone on the right and probably 300-year-old basalt on the left. In fact, the likelihood of this road being destroyed by a future lava flow is pretty good. I’m still a fan.