To Infinity and Beyond!

IMG_8099In August I wrote a post about a tradition of watching the Perseid Meteor Showers IMG_8096with my husband, Charley and for our anniversary I signed us up for a membership in Skyscrapers, “a group of people who are interested in the wonders of the sky.” Seagrave Memorial Observatory in North Scituate, Rhode Island is alive on Saturday nights with astronomers and observers who love discussing and learning about all things celestial.

At our first meeting in September (International Observe the Moon Night), I looked through a restored 1878 Alvan Clark refractor telescope and came face to face with the surface of the moon, craters and all. It was awesome. Another telescope was focused on Saturn and it took awhile for me to adjust the settings to actually see the planet and its rings. At first it just looked to me like a tiny paper clip. But we all know from past posts that technology is not my forte. (There’s supposed to be an accent over the “e” in “forte” but I don’t know how to do that yet, either.) I really want to learn more about operating these telescopes, because Bob, one of the IMG_7416 2engineers, is going to teach a class on astrophotography. How cool is that?! Then you’ll really see some out-of-this-world photos here. But for now you’ll have to be satisfied with pictures of pumpkins, sunflowers, grilled cheese, Charley and of course, cats.

IMG_8098Last Friday night we headed up to the November meeting with our friend Clark. He’d been one of the Grumman Engineers who worked on the Apollo Spacecraft Landing Design. (For those of you too young to remember any of this historic event and for those of you older folks who would like to take a walk down memory lane, I’ve included an info-graphic on the Apollo 11 Moon Landing in July  of 1969.) We thought he’d enjoy meeting some of the engineers and astronomers who comprise the Skyscraper Group. He did. And they were honored to meet him.

That night’s slide presentation and  talk  was given by Alan Sliski. It documented the acquisition and moving of the Princeton 36-inch Boller and Chivens telescope from New Jersey to New Mexico. This move involved cautiously taking apart and cataloging each part of the telescope, hoisting it out of the Observatory through the dome with a crane, loading it on a flatbed truck and getting it safely to a storage facility in New Mexico. Plans are being made to construct an observatory in which to house it and then it will have to be put back together carefully, piece by piece. Now, I have trouble rotating the mattress on my bed during Spring cleaning, but this telescope move was epic, leaving me to place the mattress thing into proper perspective.

Perspective keeps weaving its way into my thoughts a lot lately. I find myself looking up at the sky, always coming to the realization that I am a tiny dot in the universe around me. It’s quite humbling. But it’s not just the infinite enormousness of it all. It’s the encompassing smallness, too. Macrocosm, microcosm. Yin, yang.

The evening following our trip to Seagrave, we had the opportunity to share a meal and conversation with members of a local Mosque. Now, my experience with other religions is very limited.  I was brought up in a Catholic home and educated in parochial schools for 12 years. At that time, Catholics were discouraged from finding out about other religions. When I was in the second grade, my aunt signed me up for swim classes at the local Young Women’s Christian Association. My teacher overheard me talking to another child about this and informed the  Mother Superior who dutifully  informed my parents that the YWCA was Protestant based organization and I should not be participating in their functions. And so, after only three lessons, my swimming instructions ceased. Should I find myself drowning at some point in the future, I’ll place the blame directly on the head of Sister Mary Paranoia  who ratted me out.IMG_8097

Much has changed since my childhood. This would not happen now, I hope. I severed my ties with the Catholic Church while in college. I realized one day while soul-searching that I’d never really been a true believer and went along for many years not attending services. A while back, at Charley’s request, we began to attend the Congregational Church in town. At the beginning of their service, the Deacon makes announcements and then says, “Whoever you are and wherever you are in life’s journey, you are welcome here.”  I have come to truly cherish this community of caring people. Lately, our pastor, Weldon, a wise and kind man, has begun to open doors for his congregation. He has connected with religious leaders of other faiths and is arranging for us to visit with them at their places of worship.  They, in turn,  will visit with us. And that is how, we ended up spending our Saturday evening with others from our Church learning about the Muslim Community in our area; watching them at prayer, listening to young women present what their religion means to them, talking, asking questions and sharing a home-cooked meal.

Such an enlightening weekend! Friday, studying the mysteries of the heavens, Saturday, learning more about the people on my own planet. I was left with the  distinct feeling of being such a small part of a vast universe made up of many communities of human beings  inter-connected by living together and helping each other survive life on earth. The older I get, the more I realize how much I do not know. As I said, it is truly humbling. But I also realize that I want to keep learning as much as I can, because knowledge and understanding trump ignorance. And ignorance is dangerous. If allowed to spread, it can wipe us all off the face of the earth.

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45 thoughts on “To Infinity and Beyond!

  1. What a wonderful post. There’s so much pleasure to be derived from learning (we should all be perennial students), particularly when we can engage with others while doing so. Of course, that’s one of the things that blogging’s all about.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Great post. I think it is interesting, the older we become, we become wiser. I think wiser refers to realizing how small we are in the whole scheme of things. I am very much like you, I want to keep learning and from my learning I will continue growing. Thanks for sharing. 🙂

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    1. Last night at the Mosque I thought of you so often. I told Charley I had to write about the experience for my friend, Lynn. One of the young Muslim women I spoke with has a blog, too, and I’ll be following it later this evening. I think that reading your posts prepared me for this wonderful dinner with friends. Thanks, Lynn and Charley says “Hi” back to you.

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  3. Clare
    It has been very enjoyable watching your face as we have encountered new places and experiences. From looking down into the Grand Canyon to looking up at giant Red Wood trees. From the beauty of Monet’s garden to the sadness of the cemetery at Normandy. From watching meteors in our convertible at 2 in the morning, your first experience with telescopes to sun sets over the beach in Hawaii. From our first ball game at Camden Yards to the sea lions in San Francisco. Your reaction to our visit to the Mosque was very special. It will be interesting to see what comes next.
    Charley

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Hi, Honey. We do have a lot of great memories in our short, married life. And I’ve got the pictures to prove it! I’m never sure what our next adventure will be, but I always know you’ll be there holding my hand. Thanks for being my oldest and most faithful Blog Follower(Except, of course, for the persistent spammers). Love, Me

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, religion is so very personal within all of us. We need to search inside and be honest with ourselves about our own beliefs and how they developed. Lately, I’ve been trying to gain a better understanding of different religions and hopefully, in doing so, gain a better understanding and empathy for others.It is also helpful in learning more about myself.

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  4. Thank you for the fun post. I too enjoy learning of the religious beliefs and traditions of others. Your pastor appears to me to be wise to offer his congregation such wonderful opportunities. From what I have seen so far you and your husband lead fascinating lives. Bravo!

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    1. You’re welcome. I just returned from reading some of the fun (and wise) quotes on your blog, so I Thank You in return. Charley and I actually live quiet lives but make sure we leave ourselves open to many experiences. We’ve only been married for 15 years and have a lot to catch up on, so any chance for a new adventure and we’re there.

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  5. Macro. Micro. It’s a blessing to feel the connectivity of all life, here and beyond. It sounds like a lovely weekend full of insights Clare. Thanks for sharing them… and with a delightful blend of humour and grace.

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    1. I hadn’t intended to write a post this weekend, but on Sunday I began to think of the two events and their underlying connections and decided to write and share. I never seem to know what I’ll be writing next, so it’s always a revelation to me when it’s done.Thanks, Gail, I’m off to visit with you awhile.

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      1. Thanks for visiting Claremary. I’ve enjoyed reading your reflections on my posts.

        Like you, I often don’t know what the upcoming posts are going to be. Sometimes I have a specific post that I’ve scheduled in my mind but often the next posts are open to the serendipity of life’s happenings. I’m always reassured when ‘the unexpected’ turns out to be such a wonderful fit for a blog story and is enjoyed so much by others.

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  6. “The older I get, the more I realize how much I do not know.”
    I couldn’t agree more. I also agree about the importance of taking an interest and continually learning. The more I find out, though, the more I realize how vast is my (and our) ignorance about so many things. I’ve come to the conclusion that certainty is an illusion enjoyed mainly by the young and politicians. 🙂

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  7. You are so lucky to have Weldon as a pastor. What an experience it will be for you to learn about other religions and astrophotography! Looking forward to reading more Clare. P.S. I think it is absolutley sweet to be able to read the mini love letters between you and Charlie here in the comments 💖💞💗

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    1. Yes, we realize how lucky we are in so many ways. I don’t think I’d still be blogging if Charley hadn’t encouraged me in the beginning when I was making so many mistakes. He’s proud I stuck it out and loves to write comments. And I’d never have met people like you. Thanks for your all of lovely thoughts.

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  8. What a wonderful post. You touch on so many issues that could be happily discussed for hours. Your descritions of your experiences at the observatory and watching the night sky are superb and I totally agree that it’s all so very humbling. And astrophotography sounds awesome! As for the religious issues, I think Weldon’s welcome, and the way his words embrace people from every denomination, is perfect. I just wish people the whole world over could accept each other, too. 🙂

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      1. Religion should bring all peoples together, not lead to so much hatred an even warfare. When will people learn to live together in tolerance and understanding? Have a wonderful Thanksgiving tomorrow, Clare. We’re waiting until Christmas to enjoy our next turkey! 🙂

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      2. You’ll just have to bring her some turkey back (you know, a cat’s version of a ‘doggy-bag). She must be upset – a sit in is a desperate measure, especially on the dining table. Lol. 🙂

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    1. I grew up in one religion and in college decided not to belong to any organized religion – just live a good life doing unto others. That worked quite well for me. When I married Charley, he was searching for a religion. Being divorced, his own religion had turned its back on him. I understood and I went with him to a Congregational Church that friends of mine belonged to. They could not say enough about the people there and the sense of community. So, I went with Charley one Sunday, hoping to get him involved, fully intending to return to my own way of life without an organized religion. But this community afforded opportunities to help others and I continued to attend services with him. That’s how a non-believer ends up in Church on Sunday mornings

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  9. The Universe is beyond our comprehension really. I love that single photo that Voyager II took of the Earth. With only enough battery power to turn it around, face the earth and take its final snap we received what looked like a single blue pixel in the centre of the picture, the Earth! It’s been too smoggy to use the app you recommended Clare 😦 You have to be patient in Beijing. Cheers for the post. Have you watched BBC’s – Space Odyssey – Voyage To The Planets. I absolutely love it and the story of Pegasus and its journey around the Solar System. I am sure you can find it on YouTube. Something for the weekend ha ha!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Andy. I’m still having real problems with skyping on Saturdays. Poor picture, terrible sound and it keeps shutting down. We just keep re-calling and trying to finish a conversation (or sentence!). We’ll see again this Saturday. Sorry to hear about the smog but I know you’re a patient man.I will definitely check out Voyage to the Planets but probably not this weekend. Still editing!!!I may not even get to a blog post. I never know??? I did read to three third grade classes this week and it was a blast as usual. I had a great conversation about Writer’s Block with an 8-year old. Take care and don’t breathe too deeply. Clare 😷⚠️

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Ha ha ha ha ha > You’re so funny. What does an 8 year old do t get over writer’s block then? Still laughing! Skype’s terrible but the undersea cables around the Taiwan area are notoriously bad because your in Typhoon Alley. Still laughing!!!!! LOLOLOL

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      2. Hi again, Andy. I was just on your blog and realized you had put a link to my latest post and I thank you for that. I was searching for July, 2014 posts to learn more about you Xiamen vacation. But I couldn’t find a search or archives. I’ll check again tomorrow. Again, thank you. Clare

        Liked by 1 person

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