Thursday, November 05, 2020

Hello Mars 

This is Mars. Who are you? Image via The Guardian

When you live in a large city, you get used to not seeing much in the night sky. Only the brightest of objects can be seen. Amazingly, some of the brightest objects are nearby planets. Relatively nearby, that is. For most of this year, I’ve watched the conjunction of Saturn and Jupiter, a cosmic pairing that pranced through the sky like old dance partners, in a coupling that only comes together once every twenty years, like an old married couple. More recently, Mars has begun to swing above the southern horizon to be so plainly visible as to make you think it was a stationary drone peering down on you.

There’s been a lot of talk about loneliness and longing during the pandemic but I haven’t felt alone at all. Maybe for the first time in years I’ve come to realize how I am surrounded by friends, new and old, that I can count on. There have been bursts of communication that have sometimes felt “bustling”. While I’m familiar with video calls for work, I have been surprised by how so many of my Luddite friends have finally discovered the usefulness of a video call.

Along with the human moments of this pandemic there have been the cosmic ones too. Not to sound like the X Files or something but we are not alone. Looking out into the sky to see our solar system buddies has felt very awesome in that I am full of some large measure of awe.

Now that I’m noticing Mars for really the first time, I’ve wondered, “Hello Mars. Where have you been all my life?” Of course, Mars, just like Jupiter and Saturn have always been there but the truth was, I wasn’t. I’m not sure I understand the phrase of “being present” but if it means something like being aware of a presence than I can say I’ve become a lot more present in the last eight months. Noticing the sojourns of the planets, the path of the moon, the angle of the sun, the sound of songbirds, or the wails of an aging drunkard (yeah, that hasn’t changed in this neighbourhood), I realize I haven’t slowed down (could my life move any slower) but the halting of the world has allowed me to see what passed me before. Maybe this moment, a year with environmental, societal and public health disasters, which has felt like a decade, is similar to how time expands during an accident like a fall from a ladder or just before a car collision. You really have time to take in all the details before you hit the ground.

Or perhaps I’ve reached an age when all that came before happened too fast and all that is yet to come is much clearer in front of me and having that view of the other side of the mountain has shown me the urgency of all I have left that I want to do.

So yes. Hello Mars. How are you?

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