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January





December 31, 2007 / January 1, 2008 - Of Endings and Beginnings...

Comments: Each year it is my practice to view the distant Cosmos as one year ends and a new one begins. Luck often holds and skies are clear - but not this time. Ohio has been socked in again... and no breaks in the clouds will arrive to save the moment.

This year I have my natural grandchildren for an extended visit. They come with us for the annual "Party at the Farm" to help represent the expanding family. Both my sons and their women are here as well, and how we laugh at how our gypsy caravan has expanded! We eat, we talk, we hug and enjoy the company of the older generaton blending with the new... and return home under the clouds once again.

For many, New Year's is indeed a party. My own party is quiet in comparison. The children play with their toys and we happily pick at the assortment of snacks laid out on the table. Instead of dancing and rioting in the streets, we gather around the television instead... watching a marathon of favourite programs. When the magic hour arrives, one grandchild is dead to the world and the other surprisingly alert. We watch the ball drop at Times Square, and my blonde-haired, blue-eyed granddaughter waits at the sliding glass door.. watching as we complete the redneck ritual of firing a gun in salute of the changing years.

Not long after, she too, goes to sleep. The house is quiet now and I am the only one left in the living room. The dogs lay curled up with the children and the firelight dances on their sleeping forms. I feel a rush of love at the sight and I walk to the door to once again check to see if the stars have come out. Even though not one solitary twinkle shows between the clouds....

The real stars are all around me.

"December winds, won't you come cover me... December songs no longer I sing."



December 25, 2007 - O Holy Night...

Comments: What a wonderful Christmas. It has been many, many years since I have been in such a festive mood and so prepared for the holiday!

Oddly enough, after spitting snow and changing weather, the day was somewhat sunny and filled with family and laughter. It was a round robin of present opening, ooohs and aaahs, the smells of fresh coffee, cinnamon bread and egg nog blending gently with the warmth of wood fire. The dogs pranced through acres of discarded paper, proudly displaying their new toys and the anxious cat perched nearby devouring his generously given treats. All seats were taken and what was once a clean room quickly filled with the happy leftovers of ribbons and boxes It was not a thing that stopped, for as the hours wore on, more and more family came by and the process was repeated.

Feast? Of course! The table was laden many times. An entire spiral sliced ham disappeared along with huge trays of cut fruit and fresh vegetables. Pounds of lacey swiss cheese and buckets of potato salad emptied, and loaves of swirled rye bread consumed. Plates of cookies and candies mysteriously emptied on their own accord and the coffee pot never cooled. Amidst all the laughter and the sounds of the dishwasher running, the Wii held central court and the family flocked around it. From 8 to 80 we bowled, we batted, we swatted tennis balls, shot skeet, rode cows, played billards and punched each other in mock games of boxing. We were all entranced by interactive gaming and much laughter followed long into the night. And at the end of it all?

Was the stars....

It was late when I went out. The Moon had long since risen, but the winter stars still shone diamond hard. The dogs had declined to join me, content instead to enjoy their ham bones by the fire and happy once again with peace and order. I stood outside under those stars, remembering the reason for the season... Singing my carols and probably looking a fool... But not feeling like one. Was this the sky the wise men saw? What marvelous miracle amoungst these bright stars drew them to Bethlehem? How I would love to have seen that night sky... To have witnessed the celebration of the Comos at the birth of a child. I sit on the bench, tracing across the things I've loved and known for years. How many of these distant wonders that fill my eyes have light that left at the time of Christ? Did He look upon the stars as well? Marvel at the timeless dance of the Universe?

And I am renewed once again...

"December wind, won't you come unto me? December wind whispers timelessly..."



December 23, 2007 - Remembering Ranger... Mars and the Moon...

Comments: Tonight it was that time again. Time to break a branch from the Christmas tree and take and handful of cookies to the place on the edge of the field where I know my old friend lays. The earth has long since healed over and so has my heart. Dogs come and dogs go... After all, I have two now. Both young and old...

But, tis' almost Christmas and I remember my Christmas eclipse chasing friend. He was the dog of my learning years... Chasing raccoons and opossums while I chased after learning the stars. Even when he became old he would lay on an old blanket or rug beside me while I kicked back to watch a meteor shower. There's a certain fitting-ness to remembering him and although I do not mourn, it feels good to recall all that once was. What ever became of Charlie Wallace? Does John from Nebo still look at the stars?

Of course, I looked up. The wind here is so strong now that it nearly tears the hair from your head and days have passed in clouds and rain. I could see a bright spot against the clouds and I thought I'd stand for just a moment longer, for I could see a hole that would soon unveil the Moon. How could I forget?! What miracle happens to the mind... For when the flying clouds left that one brief, clear moment...

The Moon stood alongside Mars.

I smiled to myself and watched as within seconds the clouds had swallowed it once again. I could see that it would be some time before a clear moment would arrive again, and young dog and I started back to the house. Beyond the sliding glass door stood the Christmas tree, sparkling in peppermint reds and whites. Old dog had chosen not to brave the bitter winds with us...

Instead he had chosen to take his own post... Beneath the branches of the tree... Right where his old companion laid his head down to sleep and never woke up. Actually, he's been there pretty much since the day the tree arrived and it's as if he remembers. I smile when I take his picture. Laughing to myself because the many packages beneaath the tree are hidden far too the back so the young dog does not chew them. Once upon a time, Ranger would sneak gumdrops from the gumdrop tree each time he walked past the coffee table. H? H sneaks walnuts from the basket. To him, a fireside is just not a fireside unless you're chewing something up. Young dog? He follows in the pawprints of those before him. Happily stealing bits and pieces and chasing the cat when he dives into the branches of the tree. Christmas here is barely controlled mayhem...

And I'd have it no other way.

As the night passes, I see the Moon and Mars again several times. It was closest for that one brief moment when I was remembering Ranger... And Mars raced on ahead towards the west and the Moon slowed down as the night wore on.

It's funny how that happens...

"Why follow me to higher ground? Lost as you think I am. Just throw away your basic needs... For ambience and vanity."



December 18, 2007 - And Then There Was Mars...

Comments: Winter storms. Love 'em! I adore all the hyperbole that goes with them, too. Shop now! Blizzard coming!!

Of course, I am not different than anyone else. When you live very rurally, you take these kind of advisements to heart. It simply isn't pleasant to run out of a staple or not to have gas for the generator. So I prepare... And watch the snow and ice cover my little world again. The weekend passes and it's not as bad as they thought... And by Monday night? The Moon was peeking through a hazy sky again...

In the early morning hours, the dogs woke me up. In a way, I'm glad they did. Those hazy skies had give way and even through the sparkle of the Christmas lights reflecting off the window I could see stars... And Mars. Once upon a time I would have bundled up and gotten the big telescope out, eh? Now? Now I just bundle up and get the little telescope out... It's been so long since I've seen M41, M46, M47, M35, M93, M66, M67, M67, M50, M38, M36, and M37...

And then there was Mars.

"Dont scream about...Don't think aloud... Turn your head now, baby. Just get me out. Don't worry about... Don't speak of doubt... Turn your head now, baby. Just get me out."



December 12, 2007 - Buckeye Central HIgh School...

Comments: It's a class act!

It was truly my pleasure to make the drive to Buckeye Central High School to help a group of adults and students form an astronomy club. First order of business? Teach these guys how to find the constellations... How the sky moves... The phases of the Moon and more.

Of course, you can't get away from me without lessons - so we did the many things I enjoy that teaches relative distances, sizes and the concept of space. Did they have a good time? You tell me. The most recent mail I've had from them says that even more kids have joined after hear what we did!! At the end of our lessons, we went out on the roof of the school with several pairs of binoculars, the green laser, and the star map in my head. For the first time, the skies cooperated to an extent, and they had the chance to see Mars, the Plieades, M42, M44 and the Andromeda Galaxy.

Who could ask for more?

"Just tilt your Sun towards my domain.... And the cup runneth over again."



December 2, 2007 - RAS Christmas Party...

Comments: Another year has gone by yet again. It is so good to see my friends and celebrate the season! What a wonderful year we've had...

Not too long afterward, this came along. As you can see, it sure puts a damper on the old observing experience. Every now and again we'd have a ltltle clear sky and I'd go out chasing the comet - but breaks are few and far between.

Winter is upon us!

"Why drink the water from my hand? Contagious as you think I am."