I got to the beach a bit early today for my run. I thought there was a chance that I might see the shuttle go whooshing by on its way to land further up the coast.
Don't laugh. There was a decent chance. From a perch on Hollywood Beach, I've seen the shuttle launch. Granted, it was a distant, vertical slash of ascending light--nothing like seeing it launch from a closer perch. But it was thrilling nonetheless.
When I got to the beach, the radio was saying that the shuttle was at southern South America. I kept my eyes to the heavens. I kept my ears open. I knew that it would be around 5:45 when the shuttle was in my neighborhood.
At 5:43, I saw light flickering in the clouds to the south. The shuttle or lightning from a storm at sea? At 5:46, I heard a rumbling like I've never heard before. I tried to tell myself that it was probably a truck rumbling by. But it felt like it came from higher up than the road. It felt like the clouds were parting as something big vibrated by. It felt cosmic.
Of course, I'm impressionable. I'm the kind of woman who will take the downshifting of a truck crossing the Intracoastal and endow it with all sorts of symbolism and larger meaning.
Even if it wasn't the shuttle, I still got to see the sun rise over the Atlantic, a sight that always seems miraculous to me. I love the hour before sunrise, as the sky transitions from night to morning which makes the sea shift colors, sliding from dark black to purples and pinks. Great show, God!
I spent my morning slog of a jog thinking of shuttles and sunrises and the Alaskan salmon that I had for lunch yesterday. What a miraculous thing, to be able to eat salmon that comes from a continent away. My carbon footprint was huge yesterday. I should have gone ahead and drunk the Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand, just to complete the picture. Some day, our descendants will shake their heads.
Or maybe they'll laugh at older generations who had to wait days for a coho salmon, when they can just pick one off the shuttle as it makes its transcontinental stops several times a day.
On the way home, I heard an NPR piece where commentators read from the newly published letters of Georgia O'Keefe and Alfred Stieglitz. And as I heard Georgia O'Keefe trying to balance her desert southwest euphoria with her concern for Stieglitz, I thought about how our human situations don't change. I heard O'Keefe wrestling with the same issues that bedevil so many of us: how to be the best artist, while also being present for loved ones. By the time she was writing, she was fairly famous, so she didn't have the money worries that can complicate life, relationships, and creative work so much.
I take a strange comfort from knowing that one of the best painters of the 20th century had the same struggles with living a balanced life, a life in alignment with her values, as I do. I feel a strange comfort in knowing that the same humans who wrestle with love and commitment can hurl a shuttle into space.
If someone asked me why I have such faith in humanity, would I point to the space program or would I talk about the amazing accomplishment of artists? If someone asked me about how I can believe in God, which wonders of creation would I discuss first? How unlikely it all is, that we living clumps of carbon and ash can do such things. How remarkable it is, that our creation (and Creator, if your beliefs take you that way) gives us such gifts so freely, day after day, if we just look up from our lives to see.
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