Tuesday, December 02, 2008

With the Naked Eye

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," and it's nice seeing you! Yes, I'm looking at you! Not closely. So you don't have to worry about that big pimple. Oh wait! Sorry! Well, it does show up to the naked eye.

Two things I absolutely love: birdwatching and star-gazing.

Two things I loathe: binoculars and telescopes.

Somehow, the moment I separate myself from the reality of the moment by gazing into a piece of equipment, I lose all interest. This is particularly true in bird-watching. Even if the bird I'm watching is tiny and far away -- so tiny and far away that I can't even identify it -- I don't want a pair of binoculars.

Yes, that makes me deficient in the warbler department. Guilty as charged. With warblers, you at best see a blur of yellow feathers scoot through a glade.

On the other hand, I've seen cedar waxwings, indigo buntings, scarlet tanagers, and yellow-crowned night herons without resort to technology. I can look at a bird soaring in the sky and tell you whether it's a hawk, an eagle, or a vulture. (Not a reach for me on this.)

Once I had the great privilege to be at the very northern end of Long Island during a prime waterfowl migration weekend. We're talking Montauk Point -- oh, what a lovely sight on its own! The whole area was plastered with birders, shoulder to shoulder, with the world's best telescopes, all primed and posed. Since I was young, pretty, and friendly, I got invited to peer through many of the finest scopes ... at scaups, I believe. But when I pulled away and took a stroll, far more exciting to me was that steady line of who knew what kind of bird, flying low across the waves, furious to beat it to the warm South before winter set in.

(No few of the birders, up close and personal, were a sight for the eyes as well.)

Having grown up in Appalachia, I have the same philosophy when it comes to stars. For the love of fruit flies, the mountain skies are so brimming with stars, how would one ever pick just one to gaze at?

Telescopes are no good for meteors. I am therefore a huge meteor addict. Give me a meteor shower, and I'm happy for days. It's also heartening to be able to pick out the constellations, which show up even in brightly-lit New Jersey. Orion is my favorite.

I write this because, last evening, an unusual celestial event occurred. A crescent moon was paired with both Venus and Jupiter. The clouds cleared just long enough for me to glimpse the spectacle, then it disappeared behind another front of rain.

The article I read alerting me to the event said that if I had a telescope, I could actually see some of Jupiter's moons.

That's okay. The moment was stunning to the naked eye.

In a way, my primitive star-gazing connects me to the Ancients, who had only this method at their disposal. They did pretty good with both birds and stars, and perhaps they felt more a part of the universe than masters of it. At least that's the way I feel by depending upon my naked eye.


buddydon said...

as hard as tiz to bleeve, i gut to see that same moon n planets yesterdy evenin even up here in the nyc area. thats how brite they gut.

Pom said...

Reminds me of an evening my family was coming out of the shop. There was an incredible sunset that I won't even attempt to describe as words do not suffice. I stopped in my tracks and made certain that my husband and daughter were seeing it as well.

My husband decided that it would be a great thing to capture in photo on his cell phone (though it would have paled the beauty significantly). We then became distracted by trying to get the cell camera to work and missed the last moments of the sunrise!

Sometimes technology is not all it's cracked up to be. It serves to separate us from all manner of things that we need to connect with more...

sageweb said...

We had wonderful clear skies and I was alerted by one of my facebook friends to go out and look at the moon and her two buddies ...it was amazing!

callieharper said...

I had been watching the planets move closer together over the last few weeks, so bright in the early darkness. Then that horned moon last night. I emailed everyone I know to go take a look. So beautiful.

democommie said...

It was raining, snowing and clouding here last night and that made such a viewing impossible.

I am a photographer so I spend lots of time looking at the world through a lens but I also love driving down the road and seeing all sorts of wildlife scooting around in the fields and bogs by the side of the road. And the dead squirrels, I love seeing dead squirrels. Each one I see means one less that will be moving into my house. Sorry, it's the strain of having to trap them all the time. I really, really hate the bastards. Oh, yeah, the moon and stuff are nice too. Up here on the southern shore of Lake Ontario you can see some pretty good skies. The sunsets are just gorgeous about three nights out of ten.


Anonymous said...

Five years ago, my family had a reunion at my dad's house on Prince Edward Island. I had recently been initiated into Wicca, and my relatives (lucky me) were supportive and curious.

On the first night there, several of us were leaving to go to our cottage for the night and we walked across the yard to the car which was parked on the dark road. It was a clear night and this city girl was just loving all the stars shining in the northern sky. I said to the others, "look up", and they all did, just in time to see two huge meteors blaze across the sky.

Everyone turned to look at me, and my brother-in-law said, "Damn you're good!"

We were fogged in here yesterday, so I missed the sky show.

I love to watch ducks fly. They flap so frantically, it seems that they're afraid of heights.

Anonymous said...

Oh, I saw the show, too. It was beautiful! And my grown daughter has still not quite forgiven me for not having hours of videotape of her childhood. I found that being behind the camera meant that I wasn't present in the moment.

Anne Johnson said...

Your grown daughter should think twice. I have exactly one videotape of my grown daughter -- her christening. There stands my dad. He's now dead. There's my mom. She's now dead. There's my beloved godmother. She's long dead. There's my Aunty Peg. Long dead. Aunty Gloria. Long dead. Me, young and thin. Mr. Johnson, young and thin. The car I loved and drove until it belched black smoke.

Seize the day. Want memories? Write a blog.

yellowdoggranny said...

when my granddaughter jenny was little she was the only one interested in stars and comets and meteror showers..i'd sneak over to the house bang on the window wake her up, we'd sneak off and watch the stars showers what ever and her mom would never know..she did wonder why jamie was so sleepy some mornings...