Ghost Knowledge: Leaf Tea and Astral Jell-o

Some delights of autumn leaves: the stained-glass cathedral light they filter through the trees, the shusss-and crackle of a walk through those already fallen, their earthy perfume rising from the ground after a rain.

Another delight is the ghost images left behind; shadowy impressions of their former selves imprinted for a time on wet sidewalks.  The alchemy of rain, infusing, distilling and releasing the tannin held in the leaves, makes a kind of leaf tea which stains the walkways with these brown and gray shadows.  It’s as if the leaves are so reluctant to, well, leave, that they impress upon the autumn walks a kind of photo-memory, a soft, diffuse shade of their former existence. They are gone, but still here. Ghost leaves.

Something else gone but still here –

A couple of days after my birthday this past August, the ripples from the collision of two neutron stars somewhere in the cosmos reached our tiny corner of the universe.  The actual collision happened 100 million years ago. But it wasn’t until August that we felt the tremor and, 11 hours later saw the result – the first time observers on earth actually got to see the collision of neutron stars. I won’t begin to try to explain it all, so there’s a fuller explanation and some very cool videos here.  By the way, EarthSkyNews is a great daily dose of fun and understandable science in your inbox.  You should subscribe.

Now, I don’t know about you, but I have some excited and conflicted feelings about this.

On the one hand, I am pleased that yet again the late great A. E’s theories are proven right; that the gravitational waves from a collision of two huge, super-dense astral bodies could shake the universe like a bowl of gelatin. He actually never thought this theory could be proven because the tremor would be so small, we could never build a machine sensitive enough to detect the waves. Maybe this is one of the very few times he was ever wrong about anything. See my post about the first time this theory was proven – just two years ago.

And I am impressed and proud that humans are actually discovering more and more about how we all came to be and how our universe works.

On the other hand, the thought of the universe, with me in it, shaking like a bowl of jell-o is a bit unsettling: on a par with the fact that our moon is moving away from us at the rate of 1.6 inches each year.  As a result, the earth’s rotation is slowly slowing down. Worrisome, no?

We’ve got a few million (or was it billion?) years before we have to worry about that, though.

These incomprehensible space science things really fascinate me — and blow my mind.  I don’t know how scientists wrap their minds around black holes, dark matter, the space-time continuum, quarks, leptons, infinity … Sort of like the White Queen believing “six impossible things before breakfast.”

An eminent local scientist once explained dark matter to me (and a group of others), and I actually thought I understood it — for about 45 seconds — but couldn’t sustain the knowledge.

Still, the memory of once (maybe) understanding such a complex and ephemeral concept persists. Ghost knowledge.

Ghost leaves I can understand.  The universe – not so much. But I’m glad someone’s working on it and I’m content to be amazed.

Burning Obligations

It has been a hot and dry early autumn.  Too many of the trees have gone right from green to brown, putting expectations of a brilliant fall in wait-and-see mode. Lawns and sidewalks are littered in a shifting sheet of papery detritus. A shuffled crunching accompanies each step of my evening walk through the neighborhood.  Here and there, though, there is fire peeking through the scuffle of dead leaves, and some of the trees seem to be fighting to achieve glory.

Fire in my fingers!

Last night was one of those that signal the shift in the year; unseasonably hot for October, but with a grace of wind that propelled the day into a cloud-less evening. As night fell and the daytime clamor of the neighborhood dropped away, the wind in the trees became the dominant sound-scape, even drowning out cricket-song.

It was a perfect night to sleep with the windows open – or so I thought. The wind picked up after dark and the sky-scraping sway of the trees filled the night.  At first it sounded like the crash of the sea against a pebbled shore.  But rather than soothing, the waves of sound just agitated the night – more like the rasping schuss of a stiff broom on a stone walk, or the scraping of a crust of ice off a windshield. The volume just intensified as the night wore on – or maybe my sleeplessness just made it seem so.

I’m writing this at 2:30 am, unable to sleep with the noise of the wind in the trees and the dry leaves clawing at the screens to get in, but reluctant to close up the house against the sound.

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In February last year, I wrote another post about wind. http://kathleencerveny.com/unseen-forces/ That post talked about the force of change in my life soon after retirement.  Now, two years later, I am again facing the need to make change.

Two years ago, in a somewhat desperate effort to fill the supposed empty time ahead, to feel useful and engaged with something meaningful, and – truth be told – to avoid facing the discipline it would take to become a serious writer, I said ‘yes’ to too many things.  I am now busier than I was when working full time. It’s not that I have too much to do. I will always choose to be busy.  It’s that I have too many different things to do. It’s like having five jobs.  No, it IS having five jobs, four of which are purely volunteer. 

So, what to do?  My separate obligations are like the recent spate of hurricanes – individual tempests, blowing me left and right, creating a storm of sleeplessness and worry that I will drop the ball somewhere. The details and tasks are piling up like the growing blanket of leaves on my lawn.

 

Well, it is the turn of the season – always a chance to make change. Somewhere I have to find a leaf rake – and a match.

How the Light Has Changed

French flag

You are pulled to the window by some force that wants you not to miss how the early morning’s blush climbs up the sky behind the houses across the road. The screen of trees – pines and maples, naked but for three evenly spaced squirrels’ nests – is starkly black against the startling magenta. You look down at your notebook to write this, and when you look up again, it has all faded into a clouded gray. Gone in less time than it took to write one sentence.

You notice that a light snow has fallen, sugaring the lawns and the mountain range of spent leaves piled at the curb, and you feel the year turn toward the growing darkness.

This oddly benevolent November has been a special gift, gentling the transition. Time has spilled gold and fire into the bowl of this perfect autumn, and held it there for you a while.

What can you do but be grateful.  Things change so quickly.  A week ago Paris was still the ‘City of Light’.

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