Friday, October 10, 2014

Saturn and other Digable Planets

Sometimes reality is what you thought it was when you were a kid. Your perception then was maybe sharper than it is as you get older, as we learn to filter how we see things through books, through science, through "facts."

As a kid, who doesn't draw the planet Saturn as a circle with a ring disappearing behind it? But that's just a kid drawing, that can't be reality, right? Fast forward to about 15 years ago. We had a group of writers on a writers' retreat weekend at an Audubon sanctuary. An astronomer among us set her telescope up under the night sky and dialed it in on Saturn for all of us to check out. The telescope wasn't quite as powerful as the photo from the one above; it looked even more like what you draw as a kid. I remember looking through the lens and thinking, "Holy shit! It really does look like that!"

Nine-year-old daughter Ava has been drawing like crazy of late. I bought her artist pads of blank paper, colored pencils, crayons. She checks out books on how to draw from her school library and sets to work. She isn't finished until she has between 10 and 20 pictures drawn and colored, and then she makes a cover, and staple binds them all together into a book. Her most recent is titled, "Ava's Drawings of Halloween Costumes." It is on my coffee table.

She has also been requesting Digable Planets whenever she gets into the car. She wants to hear "Cool Like Dat" and "Nickel Bags (of Funk)." Funny aside, I was playing that same album in the car when her older sister Anna was two years old. Ava wasn't born yet. Nickel Bags was playing as we got out of the car in a parking lot in Ocean City. Two-year-old Anna got out, singing/saying, "Nic-kel bag, Nic-kel bag," like she heard in the song. Ava likes that story, which is why she digs the song. It's catchy.

I catch something new every time I listen to the Planets.

Refuting time and space in rhymes.
What would you do, if time belonged to you?
A heavy thought is,
that it DOES.
Now hip somebody else.

When you are a kid, time is more relative than it is when you grow up. Anna and Ava would both say "yesterday," and mean anything from yesterday to last year when they were younger. It all streams together. And then we start looking at watches, and we have schedules to keep, and our sense of time becomes regimented, predictable. But like drawing Saturn, what if how we think about time when we are young is a better representation than how our clocks and watches tell us to think about it now?

When I want to know about the shape and size and mystery of the Universe, I sometimes turn to Tracy Smith.

After dark, stars glisten like ice, and the distance they span
Hides something elemental. Not God, exactly. More like
Some thin-hipped glittering Bowie-being--a Starman
Or cosmic ace hovering, swaying, aching to make us see.
And what would we do, you and I, if we could know for sure

That someone was there squinting through the dust,
Saying nothing is lost, that everything lives on waiting only
To be wanted back badly enough? Would you go then,
Even for a few nights, into that other life where you
And that first she loved, blind to the future once, and happy?

Blind to the future once, and happy. Maybe it goes back to floating under the stars. Refuting time and space the way we did when we were kids. After all, (in the span of time) "we're just babies, man."

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