Tuesday, October 06, 2009


I time my arrival at the college every morning to the opening of the dining area in the Commons, 7 AM. Not that there are many students up at this time. I get my coffee and croissant and retire to a quiet corner with my laptop. And so it is that my posts appear at about 11:30 UT.

My walk along The Path from the village to the campus occupies the previous hour, and fall is the best time of year, when my walk coincides with sunrise.

Dawn! Venus blazing in the East. Vees of Canada geese honking over head, half their bellies gilded by the Sun. I walk into that screen of light, that gate of gold.
...Then the sun,
Orange, red, red erupted.

Silently, and splitting to its core tore and flung cloud,
Shook the gulf open, showed blue,

And the big planets hanging...

(from Ted Hughes, The Horses)
Imagine the Sun as a basketball (actually a million miles wide). On this scale, the Earth would be a pinhead about 26 meters away. The Sun pours out its energy in every direction. Only the part that falls upon the pinhead can we count as ours. It would be nice to think that the Sun burns for us alone, but the vast majority of its bounty is destined for deep space.

All of this we have known for a long time. But knowing and imagining are two different things. One can read this stuff on the page of a book -- or work it out one's self -- and still not grasp its significance. But I have seen those TRACE images, some of them movies. I have seen the scale and the power of those solar storms, those fountains of fire. And now, in this auroral hour, I walk toward the open door of the furnace, dead ahead, into the silent, flung animating fire.