Everything moves, everything changes. The universe is like a river, never the same from one instant to the next. I guess that sounds pretty deep and zen until you remember that the river is in the universe. *Of course* they’re similar in some ways, stupid. (…um, I’m talking to me, not you.)
I don’t really think of anything as a binary. Nothing is really *this* or *that*, everything is kind of somewhere on a continuum, or somewhere in a cycle. Ask a dozen astronomers sometime to tell you the definition of a planet, or the differences between a star, a brown dwarf, a red dwarf, and a planet. You’ll get fifteen different, subtly nuanced, answers. Ask a dozen biologists to define “life”, and whether a virus is alive. While you’re at it, ask them to define “species”. Let’s not even get into sociological realms, discussing sex, gender, and orientation. (Ok, well, all of those folks above might actually give you a textbook definition for starters, but get some wine into them and put them together if you want some really wonderful philosophical discussion full of nuance and shading about the things that don’t fit into boxes.)
We use definitions to categorize things for convenience, and we label them for ease of communication, but our convenience is not really a reflection of reality. The universe just doesn’t subdivide into neat little boxes.
I’m actually ok with continua and cycles and circles and spaghettified complexities. I don’t need things to always be clear or static. Some things hurt when they change. But life goes on. Winter leaves, summer comes. A virus doesn’t have to be alive (or not) to be cool or interesting or scary. A person doesn’t have to have red hair and light-colored eyes to be cool or interesting or scary, either (but it helps). And I don’t have to be perfectly happy today to enjoy a quiet morning on my balcony, watching Scorpius rise. Scorpius rising is a promise to me from the universe. Summer is coming.
As I’ve mentioned, I am a morning person. I’m almost always awake before the sun rises. The view from my balcony faces generally a little east of south, and I like sitting out there to watch the day break, sipping coffee, having a smoke, sometimes checking the social media and my favorite websites on my Kindle (well, unless I’m out on the marsh shooting birds, or something). Sometimes I’m just quietly watching the sky.
For most of the year, I’m out there in naught but a bathrobe, but in the winter I have to wear socks or slippers, sometimes even a coat. I don’t like winter. I don’t like being cold, and I get cold very easily. None of this is especially self-insightful, I suppose, but it’s something about me that I like.
But one thing I love about winter is watching the constellations rise in the morning, and one constellation in particular. If you go to about any astronomy website that tells you “what’s up tonight” or something similar, there will be a list of cool things you can see if you’ll just take a moment to shut up and look up. And those lists are almost invariably centered on whatever is in the evening sky, because that’s when most people bother to look up. But the earth rotates. And it orbits. And if you shut your noisehole for more than a few minutes, and tilt your head up for just a little while, you can see that actually happen in even the most light-polluted of skies.
Have you ever wondered about how that happens? Why is Orion so big and beautiful in the winter sky, but absent from the short summer nights?
It turns out that he’s not actually absent. He’s behind the sun for awhile, so you can’t see him, but he’s still there. And he’s only really unviewable for a little while. The issue isn’t that Orion has gone missing, it’s that you’re not looking in the right place at the right time. And it’s the same for all the constellations that are not near the north or south poles (depending on the hemisphere in which you live). If you pay close attention over the course of just a few weeks, or even a few days if you observe very carefully, you’ll note that all those pretty things in the sky rise above (and set below) the horizon a little earlier every night. (Except the moon, which is doing her own thing in the sky, and rises around an hour later each night, but let’s set Lovely Luna and her seductive dance aside for another day.)
It makes sense, if you think about it. All the stars in the sky are so far away that they’re, for all intents and purposes from our perspective, stationary. Think of them as painted on the surface of a giant globe that surrounds our whole solar system. (But just for this mental exercise, don’t go all geocentric on me now.) Earth goes around the sun once a year (by definition). Our orbit is more or less a circle, which is 360 degrees. A year for us is around 365 days. So we go about one degree around the sun every day. So our view of the night sky changes about one degree every day. And one degree of motion works out to stars rising a few minutes earlier every day. The math is pretty straightforward, but I have a hangover, so do it your damned self. A friend of mine stopped by for a few minutes last night just to drop off some wine for me, to help ease my heartache, if only for a little while. I may have had a glass or two too many. I have great friends, did I mention?
This morning, Scorpius began to come up over the eastern horizon an hour or so before sunrise. Tomorrow, it will come up a few minutes earlier. A few months from now, it will be high in the early morning sky when I’m sitting out on my balcony having coffee, because it will have risen around midnight. And by summertime, it will be bright and beautiful and setting shortly after sunset, having already made its nightly (well, daily at that point) trip across the summer sky. And that’s when you’ll see it on your favorite “what’s up tonight?” website. I’ll step out on my balcony and have a lovely, if light-polluted, view of Scorpius and Sagittarius just after sunset. I’ll be warm. It will be summer. I love summer. But in the early mornings, when I’m out having my coffee, I’ll be watching Orion rise. And I’ll know that winter will have it’s turn again, too.
(I’ll probably still wear my bathrobe out there, though. I don’t want the neighbors to complain. Again.)
My heart is still broken, and I’m still terribly sad. That’s not going to change anytime soon, or quickly. But like the dead of winter, this too shall pass. Scorpius is rising.
To repeat the disclaimer, this is a project about re-discovery. It’s about remembering who I am, what I’m about, what I love and what I do not. Fair warning, this project will be posted here rather than at my SFW site because there will be nudity from time to time. Some of it will be of me, some not, some artistic and pretty to look at, some just raw.
I don’t intend to think of something every day and then shoot it, though I may do that sometimes, too. But sometimes I will just shoot, and then find something about myself in the frames and post about that thing, whatever it is.
Images & Content © 2012-2017 Louis Shackleton
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