Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Reflective Retreat

I was out at a staff retreat in the middle of nowhere east of San Francisco called San Damiano. It was a place run by Friars dressed in the traditional hooded brown robe and rope belt. After staff activities and games were done for the night I tried to get some sleep but just tossed and turned. Finally at 4am I got dressed and went for a walk outside.

I looked up at the stars. They were especially bright and visible out away from the smothering glare of the city lights. I looked into the South of the sky and was stunned to see Mars popping out like a red neon apple. It was as big as a new moon and lit so brightly that I could make out it's contours and texture. There were red, yellow and grey splotches in some spots. I could even see a hit of the giant canyon that runs three miles deep and stretches as long as all of North America etched onto it's surface. It was rather astounding.

Back on earth a few feet away I caught sight of some kind of movement nearby. There to keep me company was a smallish raccoon. He was perched in the courtyard fountain doing some late-night fishing. He would stare intently at the still water of the fountain and then quickly shoot both his nimble rodent hands/paws into the water trying to grab at the goldfish swimming below the surface. Plunk. I didn't want to disturb him so I just looked back up at Mars and wondered if my friends on the other side of the Earth in Australia would be able to see the red planet hung out so beautifully there in the cool of night.

A second raccoon came out to join his friend but was startled when he saw me. He sounded a warbly little snuffle to his fishing friend. They exchanged a few raccoon communications that seemed to be about me.

Nervous Raccoon: "Dude, there's a human right there, dude!"
Fishing Raccoon: "Yeah, he's cool. He's just been looking up at that big reddish ball in the sky."
Nervous Raccoon: "Whoa, hey, is that Jupiter?"
Fishing Raccoon: "No dumb ass, it's Mars. Now shut up, you're scaring away the fish."

I'm not really a late night walk-taker so I like to think that something was pulling me out to see Mars orbiting so close to the Earth. It won't be that close for another 220+ years. I'm glad I got to see it and make some new friends.


Sherriff said...

Last night the moon was bright red and bleedy looking down our parts.

Ew. bleedy parts.

I've always wanted to see a roccoon, the masked avengers of the League of Critters.

Chai said...

No-one would have believed, in the last years of the nineteenth century, that human affairs were being watched from the timeless worlds of space. No-one could have dreamed that we were being scrutinized, as someone with a microscope studies creatures that swarm and multiply in a drop of water. Few men even considered the possibility of life on other planets. And yet, across the gulf of space, minds immeasurably superior to ours regarded this earth with envious eyes; and slowly, and surely, they drew their plans against us.