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My mom saw Mars

September 5th, 2003 · No Comments

I missed Mars. The week it was the closest to Earth in 60,000 years, I was too tired to care, collapsing at night once the girls went to bed. I forgot to write it down on my to-do list! Instead I paid the mortgage, mopped floors, and forgot about Mars.

Tonight finally I remembered to make the effort to look and I realized, standing barefoot on the aggregate front porch, that I don’t have much of a southern view to see from our house. I see mostly trees and the neighbors homes, and a big piece of moon. I see something bright in the sky, but I’m not sure it’s the Red Planet. Maybe I’ll have to content myself with watching Mars on the Web – look at this animated planet , captured by someone sitting with a laptop on a rootftop in Bellevue (my hometown, not too far from here!). Thanks to Enoch Choi , ol’ college friend, for the link.

But my mom saw Mars. As we were driving to the fair a couple weeks ago, she began telling me about the night sky. How she had seen the Big Dipper while driving to her home from our place earlier in the week. It seemed to bring her much comfort as she drove, just the glimpse of it through the trees. How it was her favorite constellation. How Mars was bright, yellow and orange. She told me about other stars she sees.

I’d never talked with my mom about stars. Usually our conversation topics involve various family problems, stories from the past, or issues in the news. Discussing the night sky was a new direction. I never knew she watched the stars. I told her my surprise and asked her how she had started studying.

Mom mentioned that at her previous home, positioned on a hillside with a generous view, she could look out and see the stars at night. To me, I have lived most of my life – sadly – simply surviving, getting things done, busy busy busy. Stars, trees, flowers, bugs have all become a blur, something I spy out of the corner of my eye while rushing down the road, from here to there. A few years ago I began to learn to slow down, to try to see the little lizards scurrying out of my way when I jogged down the streets in Cupertino, to admire the flowers blooming instead of sprinting past the blossoms.

Although I grew up in the Northwest, a region often complimented for its beauty, I knew little about it all. I did not know much about the creatures and mountains, about the plants and planets surrounding me. In recent years I’ve begun to study plants – even begun to love them: weeding and watering my garden in the dark, reading seed catalogs like romance novels, feeling affection for the tender shoots and fruits, plotting my next purchases, imagining the joy. But planets and stars I have yet to learn – or even look. Maybe I could find Orion – only because in third grade I wrote a report on Betelgeuse. The rest of the sky is a mystery, glittering light sent long ago, as random to me as pinpricks through black paper.

I like it that my mom sees the stars. She sees Mars. She likes to look at the night sky. She knows it well. She finds constellations and considers them friends.

I see my mom studying the dark sky, looking at the little lights, these remnants reaching her from afar. I see her studying the heavens. She is studying Hope.

The heavens tell of the glory of God.
The skies display his marvelous craftsmanship.
Day after day they continue to speak;
night after night they make him known.
They speak without a sound or a word;
their voice is silent in the skies
yet their message has gone out to all the earth,
and their words to all the world.

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