Saturday, December 03, 2011

the astronomical society



tonight the river is fat. it rushes by in deep black water, it is rocking high against the breakwater. it must be because it rained and snowed in the last couple of days. what do we mean by what we say? to say the water is high, to say it rained in the last couple of days? we are talking about other worlds, or this world, and the water. the muscles of the water. to stop and watch it. to just stay put and watch it in the cold night. then what is in front of one's eyes starts to take shape. there is a branch between me and the river i had not seen. the branch with its buds bursting twisting out from the thin trunk (buds in december? this morning i saw mosses still alive, green as all hell, even now, with not a single leaf left on the branches, they won't die until the frost kills them)

i am trying to capture these thoughts as they float up and my eyes go to the next thing. any casual thing could distract me from these fragile thoughts and make me forget the minute ago. they say it took a thousand years before it occurred to anyone to ask whether it was true that two bodies of different weights dropped from a great height would land at different times. newton went and did it. and it turns out, the heavier body does not fall faster than the lighter body. they fall at the same speed. or maybe lots of people knew that, and the knowledge never made it into the books. or maybe no one thought to try. from what i've seen of people, i'm not surprised no one thought to try.

i've got not much to do, so i went to the astronomical society meeting in town. the average age was 70. a lot of grey hairs and bellies. i sat in a corner and watched them figure out the proceedings for the society. the president said i was lucky because tonight they brought coffee and cookies. they had an interesting meeting, trying to elect officers. it was hard because no one wanted to be secretary. the outgoing secretary had arthritis and couldn't type very well. he kept mishearing what people were saying as he was taking minutes. one guy who had a giant coffee stain down the front of his strange white t-shirt, stretched to the limit by a happy belly accessoried by a happy grey beard, was pressured into taking the post. he was not interested, though clearly he was a driving force of the society. he did talk of how spectacular the transit of jupiter was not long ago, how the little moon ganymede would cross the surface of the great giant and cause the pimple of a shadow to fall on the face of jupiter - all this through a telescope. they discussed putting on a big to-do for the meteor shower in august. they had an anti-light pollution committee no one wanted to be on except the one autistic 16-year old whom no one trusted in a position of authority. the librarian was retiring. the treasurer said they made $251 last year.



the president was a fatherly fellow who wanted to make sure people got together to look at the stars. the society soon glowed after its initial awkwardness with an easy warmth, hidden away from the rest of civilization. a very old man rambled on for a long time about how the streelights used to be covered to prevent light pollution for stargazing, and everyone listened, despite the fact that no one was sure when the rambling was going to end. it kind of drifted into silence and then started up again, coming out of him like weather. another very old man was not sure he had been nominated for secretary (though he was) but he declined anyway. i was surrounded by the most gentle animals in the world, and they wanted to gather together and keep warm and look at the universe from lonely dark towns in december, this crazy, vast, unfathomable universe they were in and call it spectacular when one blob of light eclipsed another blob of light through a crude telescope. what do we mean by the things we say? it is spectacular because we are seeing one giant planet move through the universe with your own eyes. you can see the universe move, like a giant mystery.

i am sure they have quiet but difficult lives out there beyond the cities that they try to make beautiful for the handful of people they call their families. they are far from the screams i have heard from a thousand heads. i love them. i wonder what it would take for me to stop being nice to people. i can't stop being nice to people. but they have been such atrocious egotists. i can't help but see all their fragile innocence, and i think it breaks my heart to scar it. i know this is a strength and a kind of foolishness, and if i had to be hard i would want it to be pure, but this purity never comes. i would only hurt people with truth, and i have so little of it, its easier to take their blows.

a woman laughs at the bar. amazing. in books, they always say, someone laughs at the bar. why are they laughing at the bar? why is this significant?

because it is an echo of a whole other universe of a person you will never know about. why did she laugh? did she mean it? what was the joke?