Verbenia, Italy. I was lying out in the garden yesterday photographing airplanes and their white trails of smoke when I felt my blackberry vibrate & saw the following well-timed email from my grandmother in Florida (caps emphasis hers):
"GOOD MORNING ALL!! WHAT A DEAL!! WE JUST WATCHED THE SPACE SHUTTLE DISCOVERY TAKE OFF!! IT'S A CLEAR MORNING, AND DARK, SO GOT A GOOD LOOK. FIRST, THE SKY GOT AN ORANGE GLOW, THEN SMOKE, THEN THE BRIGHT LIGHT OF THE DISCOVERY. WATCHED IT FOR A LONG WHILE, LEAVING A SMOKE TRAIL, THEN IT BECAME LIKE A STAR, FINALLY OUT OF SIGHT. PUTS A LUMP IN YOUR THROAT. 7 ASTRONAUTS, FOUR MEN, THREE WOMEN, ON THEIR WAY UP!! WIDE AWAKE IN FLORIDA."
I think it's pretty amazing too. There is almost nothing more awe-inspiring than space and space travel, astrophysics and the reaches of the farthest galaxies. When I hear about "the bright lights of the Discovery" I think Galileo Galilei. "He sat in a cathedral in Pisa. He watched a lamp suspended from the ceiling as it oscillated back and forth. He used his pulse to keep time and discovered that the period of oscillation was independent of the size of the arc. A few years later he contradicted the theory that a heavier body falls faster than a lighter one. Which took some guts back in 1609, when you consider that the theory he was contradicting was Aristotle's..." (quote from the West Wing). I think of Dr. Gianelli's book The Tests of Time and how he used to tell us that things out there are stranger and more amazing than our wildest imaginings. And isn't that so.