I am a great planter this spring, and by that I mean as much the container into which you put things as I mean a gardener with a trowel. The whole business puts me in mind of a quote I once saw attributed to Henry Miller: “It is not to discover what is going to happen to us . . . that we should look to our horoscopes. A chart should . . . make man more aware of the fact that life obeys the same rhythmical, cyclical laws as other natural phenomena. It should prepare him to welcome change . . . and to understand there is no good or bad but always the two together in changing degrees.”
Back on the new moon in December, which is when I make my resolutions for the new year, I included these three objectives, among many:
1. Regain spiritual connection
16. Plant mountain laurel
27. Eat lunch at home two out of five weekdays
I don’t actually prioritize my lists. I usually just sit down and type fast—boom, boom, boom. Whatever is near the mouth of the gumball machine is what you get when you put the nickel in. The item “regain spiritual connection” was actually somewhere around eighth or ninth, right after “buy a new bed.” Just so you know. But at the last minute I decided to relocate the spiritual gumball. Then I went to work.
If you haven’t been watching your night sky this year, you’ve been missing a lot. At work, Tony sends everyone in the department updates on orbiting spacecraft and planetary alignments. Tony’s expertise is in electronic and satellite imaging, remote sensing, and image processing and analysis. He gets planetary information from the University of Texas at Austin and the MacDonald Observatory. His short email messages at the beginning of the year focused on the Mir spacecraft, which seemed like a gumball in trouble.
Subject: Znamya woes
Yesterday’s first attempt to deploy the Znamya mirror failed: the mirror has tangled with an antenna on Progress. Today the cosmonauts will try again, and if they succeed, the cities the mirror could illuminate will be different from the original plan, since the orbits of Mir and Progress have precessed.
Several amateur astronomers have reported seeing Mir and Progress flying in formation, Mir leading by a few degrees.
“Hit an antenna?” you say. “Didn’t they allow for that?” The mirror structure isn’t rigid during deployment. The design has Progress spin up so that centrifugal forces draw the thin foil outward as it unfurls. The forces in play are small, and the actual shape of the package during deployment isn’t completely predictable. It’s the same problem the STEX team ran into last month.
I’m sympathetic. I ran into problems trying to deploy the mountain laurel. First I found that I needed to install gutters on the house, otherwise the runoff would wash out all the planting beds. I lost a couple of bags of mulch before I figured that out. Then I went to the nursery to get some mountain laurel plants. They had to be ordered from the grower, and the size I wanted was pricey, to say the least. But I’m really keen on these plants, because they are deer proof, native to the area, and in the spring they make cascading purple blossoms that smell exactly like grape bubble gum. The nursery delivered the 10-gallon containers, but of course they did not dig the 10-gallon holes. That would be a job for my ever-loving husband, a guy who unfurls from his office more slowly and unpredictably than the Znamya mirror.
Meanwhile, a friend loaned me some audio tapes about the Shambala Warrior tradition—Buddhist, I think—which is about the enlightened warrior’s approach to change and conflict. From this I learned that I must melt complaints against myself before I can feel compassion for others. No one, in their heart of hearts, resents that night follows day, that the sun is warm, and the moon is cool. Equally we should not resist life, including our self just as we are. So perhaps it is not a bad thing to put a new bed at the top of the new year’s resolution list. One gumball is as good as another.
My husband planted the mountain laurel, I wiggled restlessly through my meditations, wishing I was doing almost anything else, and the orbiting Znamya mirror saga appeared in another message from Tony. The email was a haiku, in essence if not quite in structure.
Subject: Znamya is dead
Closing the story: the second attempt failed. Progress and the mirror remnants have been programmed to de-orbit into the Pacific Ocean. Sadness.
I drove to Dallas to see the Ayurvedic doctors. The idea came up when visiting my friends from that city, and it seemed to segue with my spiritual goal for the year. I figured that if I didn’t feel connected to the universe, maybe it was because my body was a bit abused. Maybe all those holiday cookies and late nights socializing were too much of a good thing.
You know you haven’t completely forgiven yourself in the best Shambala Warrior tradition if you hesitate to list all your medical problems and lifestyle habits on the medical interview form. The sun may be the sun, and the moon the moon, and the Znamya mirror was just doing the best it could. But no way am I going to admit that I snore at night. It’s too humiliating. It’s just . . . so . . . not sexy. You wake up in the morning, and your husband has a pillow over his head. Or if you were really sawing logs, he’s moved to the next room. It’s an alarming development, and I’m hoping that if I do all the dietary, herbal, lifestyle treatments, the whole phenomena will just go away. I’m sure this is the way the Russians felt about the Mir spacecraft.
So I’m now on this regime. I’m up at 5:30 in the morning so that I can prepare all my meals and do my exercises and all. The good news, of course, is that I can now cross Resolution No. 27 off the gumball list. Plus the mountain laurel plants are making tiny grape-blossom cascades. And I got a new ergonomic pillow, and Dee says most nights I’m quiet as a church mouse.
Tony sent around a couple of announcements about viewing a monster Iridium Flare in the southeast night sky at 7:30 p.m. The only thing brighter was supposedly the moon. And although we stood out on the golf course looking and looking, the only thing we saw were the lights from the shopping center.
Some days you eat the bear, and some days the bear eats you.