a la Johnny Baker

March 12, 2007

I wrote this back in early February****

Back in December I wanted to see falling stars so badly I could hardly stand it. Somewhere I had read that there was a great chance of seeing the Geminids in mid-December if you could get far enough away from the city lights. They were supposed to be really big and bright and colorful. Once or twice I’ve seen a really colorful shooting star, so when I read that these ones could be green and yellow and blue I was even more intent on seeing them.

    My mom was in the hospital the nights they were supposed to be falling and I was so tired and I would’ve had to have driven really far to escape the city lights so I didn’t see them.

  Well.

  I read that there were shooting stars, the Ursids, that you could possibly see around Dec 22. But that week it rained and the skies were so cloudy, so of course no stars. Which was fine, we need the rain.On Christmas Eve, my friend Nick gave me Sufjan Steven’s Christmas CD. There’s a song on there called Star of Wonder. Its’s swirling and gorgeous, like the Milky Way*.     Here are the words to it:

  I call you
From the comet’s cradle
I found you
Trembling by yourself
When the night falls
Lightly on your right-wing shoulder
Wonderful know-it-all
Slightly where the night gets colder
Oh, conscience,
Where will you carry me?
I found you
Star of terrifying effigies
When the night falls
I carry myself to the fortress
Of your glorious cause
Oh, I may seek your fortress
When the night falls
We see the star of wonder
Wonderful night falls
We see you
We see you
I see the stars coming down there
Coming down there to the yard
I see the stars coming down there
Coming down there to my heart
[Repeat x 10]

I see the stars coming down there
Coming down there to the yard   

Sufjan keeps singing the chorus over + over + over for a long time and he uses instruments like harps and bells and banjos and triangles.** I hope you get to hear the song some day. It’s absolutely star music.  It sounds like stars. It sounds like when young Prince Caspian was up in the tower (the old tower that never got used) with his tutor and he realized that his tutor was not a regular human being after all but actually maybe a dwarf(!) and he started wondering if there could have been any truth to all those old stories his nurse used to tell him about Old Narnia.   That night, Christmas Eve, after eating with my friends and getting this wonderful music from Nick, I drove around the city. I wanted to go to a Christmas Eve service. I drove to Trinity Cathedral downtown. It was around ten and the service had proly started at 9 and I didn’t have the courage to walk in so late, so I just stood in the bathroom listening to their music. They have a huge organ there and the sound was huge, I could hear it even though I was locked in a little room.     I still wanted to go remember a long ago night with people so I drove up Central Ave to a Methodist church. They were between services and  people were outside around a fire and mingling in a side room eating from tables covered with cookies, punch, cheese and crackers and those little quiche things that I hear you get at Costco that taste so good.

   Hi, I imagine myself saying, I don’t know any of you people and that makes me feel lonely, but there are enough of you here that you don’t notice me and it is Christmas Eve, so I’ll take another quiche-thing if you don’t mind. Mmmmm, tasty. Mind if I have another?

   So I went to sit down in this big old red velvet vaulted ceiling church and looked around at the people. There was an old white-haired lady near me by herself. I got this idea in my head the second I noticed her: she’s a widow, she’s here alone. Her husband will not be at home when she goes back there tonight.(Of course, who knows, maybe not…..)

   The service hadn’t begun yet, I was sitting there with my candle and suddenly decided I just couldn’t be there and so I got up and went out into the courtyard and headed to my car. It was going to be lonely sitting there and I was exhausted and I was going to have to drive home 30 miles afterwards.

   I feel at this point I should tell you I did grab another quiche or two, before I zoomed off….. 

   Okay, so what does this have to do with worship? Or with meteorites….?

   Yes, well, I’m not that good a writer. Go read Dry Bones Dance or old Junkmail for Blankets if you are looking for well-connected thoughts….anyways…

   Right after Christmas, my co-worker showed me an article online about how there was another chance to see falling stars. If they happen they happen for at least a couple nights and already people in Cave Creek had seen them. Real live meteorites! The Quadtranids! 

   This time I was really going to go see them. I would get up at 3 am, drive to Cave Creek and be at work by 7.3 am came and of course I reset my alarm and fell right back to sleep and was kinda relieved to learn later that the skies clouded up anyways that night.

   I so wonder what it would be like to lay back on the cold ground wrapped in all my blankets and staring up at the cold, crisp clear winter sky. So snuggly in blankets, a billion stars……and all the anticipation and expectation of seeing falling stars…see it’s really kinda hard to describe because experientially I can barely remember what it’s like.

   Where do you live? Do you know what I mean? How far would you have to go to actually see the Milky Way? I’ve read that our sun is too young and  too cool*** to manufacture any element heavier than helium and since helium is number 2(?) on the periodic table, that leaves 90 plus elements that were not produced in our solar system. We are made of stars. We’re star remnants. But not from our star.

   I picture going to a remote place, laying down on the ground and staring up as being more worship than anything I’ve ever experienced in church. Do you know what I mean? Holy, holy, holy. Billions of stars, billions of years old. And too many spacey mysteries to delve into if you lived a billion years.

    A little before I got obsessed with going out to see meteorites I read this post ( http://www.reallivepreacher.com/node/830by  ) by Real Live Preacher. Some people got disgruntled by RLP’s f-word, some people started debating stuff, others goo-goo gaw- gawed over RLP’s writing and I got this idea in my head after reading it:

   Mercury-Venus-Earth-Mars-Jupiter-Saturn-Uranus-Neptune-Pluto

  Once I went to a museum where they placed models of the planets at different sizes and distances to represent them. You started with Mercury, the size of a golf ball and then walked like a hundred feet and got to Venus the size of a baseball and then walk a couple hundred feet to Earth, the size of a small bowling ball or something like that. By the time you get to Pluto, it’s a mustard seed way on the other side of the hill, so far away you forget what you came for and head back to the gift shop.

   So I thought, I bet you could make something like this yourself. I looked online and found some resources like this:      http://www.madison.k12.wi.us/planetarium/ssscale.htm

   And then I decided I wanted to make something like this in my neighborhood for my friends. Maybe I would use chalk and draw Mercury on my sidewalk and then further down all the other planets. I would love to draw Sarturn and Jupiter. Oh my gorgeousness, you know? Especially the rings and the storm. I would look up planet facts on the internet and then write down pretty words about them (for example: Since Neptune was discovered in 1846, it has not yet completed a single revolution around the sun.)

  Then, as we walked to the places where the chalk planets were, my friends could read their little papers. Maybe I would use scrolled up paper tied with ribbons and type everything out in some pretty font. Maybe we would do this at night and I would use glow in the dark chalk. Maybe we could have food and drinks when we got back to the house.I was only thinking about it for a bit when I also started thinking about Johnny Bakers Alternative worship tricks. It seems like something that he would add to his list.

 http://jonnybaker.blogs.com/jonnybaker/worship_tricks/wtindex.html  *I

  *I saw the Milky Way once in Zion National Park in Utah. June 1995.  ** Well maybe not exactly those instruments. *** and maybe just a little too hip?

  **** At this point, I have to say that I actually did go out to the desert-mountains with 2 friends last night and there were stars. Oh my, were there stars. I could write more about that later, but all I will say for now is that next time I go, there will be no making of fires and absolutely no flashlights, they blot out the stars so badly and we are too dependent on having light when actually star light would have been all we really needed.

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3 Responses to “a la Johnny Baker”

  1. glandheim Says:

    It’s rare to get a really good view of shooting stars. The only one I’ve ever had was in Dillon Colorado, back in about 1979 or 1980. I don’t remember which meteor shower it was, but it was well publicized in the Rocky Mountain News.

    I lived in a condo on Lake Dillon, at over 9,000 feet, so the air was thin and clear. On the night of the shower I took a blanket and some beer and went out on the lawn by the lake and laid down. I wasn’t sure which way to look, so I just looked straight up.

    There wre sailboats tied up at the docks nearby. A lot of people were having meteor shower parties. But they didn’t have their lights on.

    I don’t know when they started, but it was beautiful. They came one, after another, after another. There were “ooohs,” and “aaaahs,” and “wows” from the boats. It wasn’t dramatic. It was quiet. It’s just that there were so many of them, and so many that traversed most of the sky.

    It was a wonderful experience.

    Which reminds me that I was living in that same condo when we had a total eclipse of the moon. “Big deal,” I thought. “So the moon is totally dark.”

    Just by accident, when I went out the door to drive to work it was the dead of winter, it wasn’t snowing, and it was pitch black outside. The moon was in total eclipse when I walked out my door, and direcly above Lake Dillon.

    It is the only time I have ever seen the moon look like a ball hanging in the sky. It was dark, but completely three-dimensional. It was obviously a sphere, not a disk. I stood there and stared, unhappy that I had to get to work.

    I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again. This is a marvelous, beautiful world we live in. All we have to do is be patient, and stay awake.

  2. dejavisite Says:

    Greg, thanks so much for your comment. I got it in my email at work probably the second after you sent it and i have been wanting to respond. (It came at a good time when work was so busy and so boring, so thinking about meteorites and eclipses, even if only for a moment, was good.)

    I saw a partial eclipse once. I was in junior high and I had heard that there was going to be an eclipse, so I got up in the middle of the night to see it—-it actually didn’t start happening until it started to get light and it was only a partial eclipse but down at the end of the alley above the trees I could see the moon setting and tell that it was starting to be eclipsed.

    Seeing the moon in 3D, like a ball in the sky must have been amazing. I have never thought of the moon as anything other than a disk, so thanks for the visual!

  3. Away Says:

    Somehow i missed the point. Probably lost in translation 🙂 Anyway … nice blog to visit.

    cheers, Away.


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