Friday, May 19, 2006

The weight of sunlight

Theresa drew my attention to an essay by Verlyn Klinkenborg in the New York Times. An op-ed by Klinkenborg is not to be missed. He is a writer's writer -- graceful, literate, full of front-porch wisdom. Not so long ago I read his recent book, The Rural Life, an almanac of observations and ruminations, and was reminded of other writers' writers who celebrate the land: Donald Culrose Peattie, Aldo Leopold, Henry Beston. Writing that lets you hear "the scissoring and gnashing of a skater's blades against hard gray ice,", smell rotting apples, see the very moment when winter turns to spring.

"It often seems...that science has grown too institutional, too complex, to value the private watcher of a small patch of ground," Klinkenborg writes, by way of introduction to the book. And it's true, science has little use of the amateur observer. But the amateur observer has every need of science, which is why Klinkenborg was visiting the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in Batavia, Illinois, in the op-ed essay referenced by Theresa. In the September chapter of The Rural Life, the author tells us: "The weight of the afternoon sun already falls more lightly on my back than it did a few weeks ago." He knows that energy has a mass equivalent.