The wonder of it all …

August, 2017 Posted in Columnists & Opinion, Other

carl-sampsonEvery once in a while, I am reminded of the fact that I’m not in charge. Neither are you.

I get up early most mornings, and what I often see blows my mind. The stars splashed across the sky, from horizon to horizon, spinning through space billions of miles away, commingled with the planets that share a star with us –
it all gives me a much-needed dose of humility.

Even the weather is uncontrollable. In a time when people chatter incessantly about controlling the climate I find it comforting that they cannot predict what the weather will be in 10 minutes, let alone tomorrow or 50 years from now.

Some years ago, when we lived in Minnesota, our windmill was hit by lightning. That was 1 billion volts of static electricity that lit up the night sky, brighter than the sun with a crashing explosion of sound louder than a million fireworks. Though the windmill was connected to the house only by plumbing and wiring, that single strike blew out every appliance in the house, from the furnace to the refrigerator and everything in between. It even reversed the polarity of the electrical system in the house.

A year later, a mile-wide tornado spun its way across the countryside five miles north of our house. It destroyed an entire town – and everything else that happened to be in its path.

I’ve been in a few earthquakes, most of which were more of an earth shutter. But one that hit Alaska in 1964 was something else. At the time, we lived in Fairbanks, about 350 miles from the epicenter, yet the power knocked dishes off shelves in our apartment building. Today in Anchorage there’s a place, called Earthquake Park, near the airport where waves of soil are frozen in time, like the surf at high tide. Houses in Turnagain Arm that were once three blocks from the Pacific Ocean are now one block away.

Then there are volcanoes. Anyone who was around in 1980 when Mount St. Helens blew its top was a witness to the immeasurable internal power the earth possesses. I would suggest that anyone seeking a source of limitless power look down, instead of up.

Then there are the awe-inspiring sky shows that take place in some parts of our planet. Standing in the darkness of an Alaska winter, you will often see the northern lights, caused by the radiation the sun flings in the direction of our planet. It reaches the upper edges of the atmosphere and sets the molecules aglow, creating multi-colored sheets of light blowing in the solar breeze.

In a few weeks, we’ll witness yet another example of nature’s wonder. The moon will nudge its way in front of the sun, blotting out the daylight and sending a shroud of darkness over all of us. Total eclipses are rare, but we will get a front-row seat to yet another masterpiece of nature.

Nope I’m not in charge here. Like the 7.3 billion or so fellow travelers on this blue-green marble that skitters through the solar system at 67,000 mph, making the circuit once a year, we are simply passengers.

Someday, maybe, we’ll learn to enjoy the ride, to appreciate each other as neighbors as we make our way through the universe. We’ll be able to work together, erasing all of the many lines that we have drawn in the sand and soil and in our minds.

We’ll embrace one another as we look up and drink in the wonder of it all.

Carl Sampson is a freelance writer and editor.
He lives in Stayton, Ore.

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