When I was fourteen my parents bought me a used telescope and I took that telescope and put it on the roof of my parents house in Southern California. I would spend hours at night looking at Saturn’s rings and thought: ‘Wow, you can see Jewelry, in space. That’s crazy, right?’
Jupiter had four moons and you could see the moons going around, it was like a merry-go-round - in space! Nature made this! Then I learned about many other things, the Andromeda Galaxy with it’s 200 billion stars that’s outside our Milky Way Galaxy. I could see, even with my naked eye, this whole pinwheel of 200 billion stars…
The universe is so beautiful with its jewelry and merry-go-rounds and distant pinwheels. It’s so enormous that you can’t just conceive how large the universe is. Our brains can barely comprehend how large the earth is. I realized that this is a beautiful thing, the universe. We are part of it. Here on the earth we live our little lives, we get up in the morning, we have drama, we do the best we can in life and we’re struggling every day. The universe is so much bigger, we’re just this little tiny speck and I just wanted to learn everything I could about the big picture and see how we, on the earth, fit in.
—Geoff Marcy, UC Berkeley Astronomy Professor, interviewed by Berkeley Story Collective (via pilgrim—soul)
After learning my flight was detained 4 hours,
I heard the announcement:
If anyone in the vicinity of gate 4-A understands any Arabic,
Please come to the gate immediately.
Well—one pauses these days. Gate 4-A was my own gate. I went there.
An older woman in full traditional Palestinian dress,
Just like my grandma wore, was crumpled to the floor, wailing loudly.
Help, said the flight service person. Talk to her. What is her
Problem? we told her the flight was going to be four hours late and she
I put my arm around her and spoke to her haltingly.
Shu dow-a, shu- biduck habibti, stani stani schway, min fadlick,
Sho bit se-wee?
The minute she heard any words she knew—however poorly used—
She stopped crying.
She thought our flight had been canceled entirely.
She needed to be in El Paso for some major medical treatment the
Following day. I said no, no, we’re fine, you’ll get there, just late,
Who is picking you up? Let’s call him and tell him.
We called her son and I spoke with him in English.
I told him I would stay with his mother till we got on the plane and
Would ride next to her—Southwest.
She talked to him. Then we called her other sons just for the fun of it.
Then we called my dad and he and she spoke for a while in Arabic and
Found out of course they had ten shared friends.
Then I thought just for the heck of it why not call some Palestinian
Poets I know and let them chat with her. This all took up about 2 hours.
She was laughing a lot by then. Telling about her life. Answering
She had pulled a sack of homemade mamool cookies—little powdered
Sugar crumbly mounds stuffed with dates and nuts—out of her bag—
And was offering them to all the women at the gate.
To my amazement, not a single woman declined one. It was like a
Sacrament. The traveler from Argentina, the traveler from California,
The lovely woman from Laredo—we were all covered with the same
Powdered sugar. And smiling. There are no better cookies.
And then the airline broke out the free beverages from huge coolers—
Non-alcoholic—and the two little girls for our flight, one African
American, one Mexican American—ran around serving us all apple juice
And lemonade and they were covered with powdered sugar too.
And I noticed my new best friend—by now we were holding hands—
Had a potted plant poking out of her bag, some medicinal thing,
With green furry leaves. Such an old country traveling tradition. Always
Carry a plant. Always stay rooted to somewhere.
And I looked around that gate of late and weary ones and thought,
This is the world I want to live in. The shared world.
Not a single person in this gate—once the crying of confusion stopped
—has seemed apprehensive about any other person.
They took the cookies. I wanted to hug all those other women too.
This can still happen anywhere.
Not everything is lost.
I took my girlfriend to an improv show the other night and during intermission we were passionately arguing over whether half a 5 Hour Energy shot would give you 2.5 hours of energy or 5 hours of half-assed energy so we turned around to ask the opinions of the three people behind us and one of them said “Are all your arguments like this because we heard you in the lobby earlier fighting over the right way to pronounce ‘egg’?”