Close Encounters with Science: Picks
Total Eclipse of My Heart by Laurie Burns
I have had a lifetime fascinating with the sky, with the planets, with thinking about how big, wondrous and dark it is. My father horned my love for the sky and the beginning of this love affair is one of the first memories of my life.
I remember been shaken awake, the sharp moustache tickling my ear. “Wake up Sis, wake up. Tonight there is a lunar eclipse and I think you would like to see it.” There was the faint smell of rum on his breath and he was excited. My mother was working nights, or she might have not approved the 3 AM moon watching. But I was up. I was excited. I had no idea what I was going to see.
I remember being drug to my father's room and propped against a couple of pillows so I could see out the window. I remember the cold breeze coming in the crack of the window. I remember looking into the sky and seeing the pink moon, so bright against the dark sky. I remember him telling me it did not happen very often, that a lunar eclipse was special like me.
We stayed awake for hours, watching the sky that night. We counted as many stars as we could see, as many constellations as my father knew. We eventually saw a shooting star, and my father told me that this was the star that I could make a wish on, the one that would make all of my dreams come true. I was even allowed a taste of his potent rum and coke, I remember the bitter taste on my tongue. He played rock music softly in the background. The Travelling Wilburys I think. I was allowed to have a lollipop, and the world seemed so god damn big.
I went back to bed, happy, tired, confused. How can the moon cover the sun, how can the sun cover the moon? How can the sky be so big? How can wishes be granted by seeing a star die? How can there only be one of me? What about if the person I am supposed to marry lives on another planet? What happens if a star hits the earth? How can there be so many stars? I feel asleep, deliriously happy with the wonder and amazement of science. I didn't just think it was amazing. I knew it. I certainly still spend many hours pondering the sky, and I still don't have all the answers. I like it that way.
Laurie Burns is from Halifax, NS