Eclipse

As I type this, a partial eclipse is taking place.

Noel hadn’t even heard about it taking place today and I did read it half-awake this morning on the Web, but I had forgotten until now.

Nyota, one of our Chihuahuas, was acting really strange (as were the other animals) and I thought maybe she’d have to go outside. When I took her out, however, I realised the strange light outside, sort of like the sun wasn’t at full power.

I called out to Noel (who was going on about he didn’t know an eclipse was taking place today) and we got a piece of notebook paper, trying to see the eclipse shining on our hands, but it didn’t work. So Noel grabbed a pin, poked a hole in the paper, and voila! There was our little eclipse.

A crescent of light shone on our hands, the moon creeping up from the bottom and slowly eliminating the sunlight. We talked briefly about seeing a total eclipse of the sun (both of us have seen one once in our lives).

So what a pleasant surprise to catch the eclipse at its height!

Dark Matter

Dark matter exists between us.

According to Wikipedia, dark matter cannot be observed directly by the naked eye and does not emit or reflect enough radiation to detect through conventional equipment. Humans assume it exists because it has a gravitational effect on everything around it and, simply put, we cannot account for enough mass in the universe; this dark matter must be most of the stuff the universe is made of.

Dark matter is between us as well.

We sometimes tell the truth, omitting some information, and this becomes a lie of omission. We all do it; there’s no denying that.

But sometimes, someone reveals a truth, or we discover a truth, and the gravitational effect on our lives is amazing.

I’d like to think of this as the dark matter of our lives.

Every action, every word, hidden or not, has an effect on something or someone. We don’t know it all the time, but it does. Like dark matter, our lives are influenced by the great mass of unspoken words and unknown truths between us.

Wednesday was a long day. Jamie’s dean called up and said he’d been ditching school for the last two days, which, to be totally honest, was out of character for him. Even his dean admitted that.

I was very angry. Not that shaking-in-rage angry but that simmering pot angry, so, when he walked into my office, I confronted him with it.

But Jamie was adamant he didn’t ditch class. He had people in his classrooms who could vouch for him being there, and he even could explain what he had done in class.

Both Noel and I were satisfied with that explanation. Since Noel was teaching, he left to go back to class.

I’d picked up on something else the dean had said, so I asked Jamie about this as well. I’m not going to get into it because it is a very private matter for Jamie to tell people if and when he feels he would like to.

The dark matter pushed our lives in a different direction. This unspoken truth between us — up to that point, we hadn’t asked, he hadn’t told — was like that dark matter, that unseen but felt influence. Since day one, I felt there was this undercurrent of unknown truth, this dark matter streaming from Jamie.

And now I know the truth, the dark matter revealing itself to me.

But I ask myself: what further dark matter lies ahead? And, how much influence is it having, or will it have, on my life?

Finally! A Comet!

After weeks of Noel fretting about it, we finally saw it.

Dave O came over for his weekly visit, with wine and his good spirit and that laugh that can only bring a huge smile to your face. And, after having a few wines under our belts, we decided if we could see this damned comet Noel kept raving on about that he wanted to see.

It was a mild evening, with long, thin clouds streaking across the sky but for the most part, it was clear in the comet’s supposed general direction. The sky was fading from an orange to an ochre colour, and, beyond one of the darker, pencil-like clouds, a star streaked slightly away from us.

At first, we assumed the bright star-like dot was a planet, like Venus, but it was falling away from us at too rapid a pace. Could it be the International Space Station again? No, we concluded. It must be that comet Noel so wanted to see.

Now, the comet was called the Comet McNaught, the brightest comet seen in the Southern Hemisphere for 40 years. Unfortunately, the weather hadn’t cooperated too much with us; every day either clouds were on the horizon or the entire sky was clouded over. Not the greatest comet-spotting weather.

So, on the whim, here we were, three blips in eternity watching a comet many many miles away, not bound to pass our way for another 85,000 years, give or take a few thousand years. Quite humbling.

As we were talking and joking about it — and this was about 8:30 PM — our neighbour Philippa slammed her bathroom window shut. How dare middle class, crass people like us talk in our own back yard at a decent hour? Especially while she was farting away on her loo… but I digress.

We talked about Halley’s Comet, how it wasn’t going to be around until 2061 so we would be maybe alive (my point-of-view) and maybe dead (Dave’s point-of-view). And it kinda dawned on me, staring at this small point of light disappearing behind a group of gathering dark clouds that my children (if I have any), my children’s children, and my children’s children’s children will never see that comet. Indeed, if humanity survived another 85,000 years — and let’s morbidly assume for a moment we won’t — we will be perhaps the last humans to see that comet. What a humbling experience.

Moral of the story: this moment won’t come to pass again; use it wisely and enjoy it for what it’s worth. Many others may never get the chance.

Space Junk, Anyone?

The explosion made me jump.

Stay calm, I thought as the building shook.  It stopped shaking after 15 seconds or so; I didn’t.

Great.  5th anniversary of 9/11 (which happpened on 12 September here) and we in little old New Zealand have an “event”.

Peering out my office window, I saw people from other units in our office park come out on their balconies or into the carpark, looking around at first, then up to see if any bits of plane were about to rain down upon them.

Because, to be honest, that sound was what I’d imagine a plane exploding to sound like.

Scenerios ran through my head.  Send students home or keep them at school?  I walked out my office and out towards the other offices.  Gather students in one area or keep running classes like normal?  And Don comes out of his office.

“An earthquake, we just had an earthquake, did you feel that?” With the run-on sentence he clutches the nearest student, who also has a look of fear spread across her face.

“It wasn’t an earthquake,” I said.  “Sounded more like an explosion.”

“Earthquake,” another student said.

“Too short for an earthquake,” I responded with authority (as if I had been dealing with earthquakes all my life).

Thank God Noel came out of his office (trying not to laugh at Don flapping around like a duck on heat) and agreed.  He told us how he heard a crack, then an explosion, followed by the shaking: a shaking so severe it rattled his ceiling tiles (and a shockwave so intense it blew all the old leaves, seeds, et cetera on the school roof onto the balcony).  “I’ll turn on the radio.  There might be some news on there.”

Heading back to a window and peering out, I found most of units 8 and 9 outside still looking around. No plumes of smoke.  No plane parts.  No smoldering ruins of buildings.  All good signs.  Maybe.

Kevin (Kim’s husband) called.  Windows at their house in Aranui rattled severely.  His theory? Terrorists detonated a nuclear bomb in Australia and that was what the explosion was (never mind Australia is a 3 hour flight from pretty much anywhere in New Zealand).

Someone else said it was a terrorist attack downtown Christchurch.  I scoffed.  “Christchurch?  What makes Christchurch a primary terrorist target?”

“Well, they say it’s easy for terrorists to get into New Zealand, those terrorists have set off a bomb downtown, that must’ve been the explosion” Don replied. (Who the fudgeciles are “they”?!?)

I gave him one of my special looks.  “Christchurch.  Why Christchurch?  Why not Sydney or Melbourne or Brisbane or anywhere bigger than Christchurch?”

I got my point across; he didn’t say anything else.

Most of the students were gathered near the offices by now, waiting for news on what happened.  One student got a text to say it was a sonic boom (which was strange because all the sonic booms I’ve encountered have “cracked”).

The phone rang. Security company: “Sorry to be so late in calling you, but we’re overloaded.  Your home alarm is going off.  Whatever that explosion was, it’s set off alarms all over the region, and reports of broken windows are coming in too.”

The radio finally clicked over to news: the theory?  Space junk or a meteorite screamed over Canterbury and exploded just north of Christchurch, sending debris all over the place.

And it ended up right.  It was something from space that just happened to streak through our skies.  (Current theory: space junk.  They found a pretty weird looking something smoldering in a field and it doesn’t look like a rock to many people!)

I was going to go on a tirade about terrorism — how we are still afraid of it (even though we have more chance of being killed crossing the street), how some elements are fighting an unwinnable war without addressing the root causes of terrorism (foreign policy sometimes maybe? playing in someone else’s sandbox instead of your own?), how elements of 9/11 still don’t stack up (although it is a very tragic event in American history), how some of us still jump when a bang goes off or when a piece of space junk explodes north of your city — but I don’t want to get too preachy with this thing (the stubborn German male that I am ha ha).

Oh, and there is that part about… will whoever is responsible for half that out-of-service crap orbiting the globe PLEASE clean them up?  Before they cause an environmental disaster or kill someone?

End rant 🙂