Why I'm a Space Geek
Updated: Jul 15, 2019
Memories can be powerful things.
If I close my eyes and think back, I can remember the summer nights my mom and I would lay out on the grass in the backyard and look at the stars. I can feel the coolness of the grass on my legs and arms. I can smell the mixture of grass, dirt, and distant barbecues. I can hear cars going down the street, neighbors talking, children laughing, and my mother's voice. She would point up in the night sky at different dots of light and tell me what she knew. There was the Big Dipper, the North Star, Mars, Orion, the Pleiades, and others. Sometimes we would talk. Sometimes we would lay there in silence and just look.
I've heard many people tell me that looking up at the stars makes them feel very small, insignificant, and even fearful. Indeed, the vastness of space can be very overwhelming and incomprehensible.
That was never my experience.
As I remember back to how I felt on those starry, summer nights, it was as if God had made a quilt out of the universe, wrapped it around me and whispered, "Everything is going to be okay."
Those days were back when I was between the ages of 8 - 12 and I needed some hope, a lot of hope. There wasn't very much hope inside of the house I lived in, but out in the small backyard, in the cool grass, looking at the stars, I actually felt comfort and hopeful, I always felt hopeful.
That was a very long time ago. Since then, I have needed the comfort of that Universe quilt again and again and again and it has been there for me when I've needed it most.
The night sky always gave me a perspective that there was more to life than what I was enduring at the time and everything would be okay.
The Universe became my friend, my teacher, and my mentor.
This is the constellation Orion. It is one of the most visible and recognizable constellations in the night sky. Anciently this constellation was thought to resemble a hunter. When I was young, and my mother would tell me about the constellations, I was never satisfied with what the Greeks had decided those constellations were. I knew I wasn't looking at a hunter, I wanted to know more, I wanted to understand, I wanted to know what I was really seeing when I looked at those stars.
So I found out a few things about Orion.
These stars are so bright and so closely aligned that they are easy to spot ... except they are not close together at all.
Simply put, these stars are thousands of light years away from each other. Some of them are closer to us than the others. Some of the single points of light are not actually single points of light. Like the star at the bottom, Rigel, what we are looking at is actually 3 stars very close together and so we see their light as one. Some of the stars aren't even stars at all, they are nebulas, like the Orion Nebula pictured below.
What I have learned from the constellation Orion is that things are not always as they appear. We can be satisfied with what we see on the surface, which is fine, or we can learn more, dig deeper, look past the surface, see what is truly there.
What I have learned is that I prefer looking past the surface and discovering the hidden treasures waiting for those who seek.
That is only one lesson the Universe has taught me, one very important life lesson that can be applied to every situation of our lives, but most importantly to people - look past the visible surface and find the hidden treasures in people.
The Universe if full of lessons to be learned for those who are willing to learn - lessons that could actually change life here on earth for the better, if we would stop and pay attention.
He was also learning from the Universe.
Smart kid, that Calvin.
You don't have to be a "Space Geek" to look up at the stars at night. You do, however, need to be still, and patient, and silent. Something magical will happen when you look at the stars this way. Something inside you will start to stir and you might even begin to see past the bounds of this world and realize your problems are not as big as you thought they were. You might even feel the Universe whisper to you, "Everything is going to be okay."
A couple of years ago, I discovered that a bunch of students I work with had never looked up at the night sky. I mean, I'm sure they had looked, but they had never paid attention.
I felt sad for them, especially because these students were students a lot like I was when I was their age, in need of hope. That was when I decided it was time for me to teach them to look up. I taught them how to tell the difference between stars and planets and told them to report back to me when they had been able to look at the night sky and see for themselves.
(Do you know how to tell the difference? Stars twinkle, planets don't. Try it. You'll see.)
The students came back to me. They had seen the stars twinkling and the planets were still and they were excited and its just been more exciting since then and some of them have even shared with me how looking at the stars gives them hope. They have no idea how happy that makes me.
Why am I writing all of this?
Honestly, I don't know.
I sat down to write something totally different than what is here, but this is what came out of my fingertips onto the keyboard today.
I haven't written anything about NASA or rockets, or, astronauts, or trips to the moon ... and I'm not going to. This is my "Space Geek" origin story. It started as a little girl, lying in the summer grass, needing to know that everything was going to be okay.
Maybe someone out there will go outside tonight and look at the stars because of what I wrote here. I hope someone does.
That would make me the happiest Space Geek alive!