I learn so much from chance conversations. If it hadn’t been for a recent casual remark by a fellow golfer, I would not have heard of the latest comet sensation – Neowise. For someone who loves astronomical events, I don’t know how I missed this. My research told me the best night to see the comet would be on July 22 (when it was closest to earth) and soon after that, it would not be returning for “close” observation until 6,800 years in the future!
How often do we get such an opportunity , so I plotted my strategy. I would venture out into my neighborhood after dark on Wednesday evening July 22nd. I knew that I should look to the north west sky close to the Big Dipper. See this link.
Exploring my neighborhood after dark under the light of a crescent moon in my trusty little golf cart:
After driving around my neighborhood for 45 minutes trying to find a good viewing spot, my instincts directed me to a wide open area where I had an unobstructed view of the Big Dipper. I parked my cart, turned off its headlights, and picked up the family binoculars. Weighing in at about 3 lbs, they hung quite heavy around my neck.
I started scanning the sky left and below of the Big Dipper. Nothing came into view except the few diamond like stars already sparkling in the evening sky. I cranked my aching neck back and repeatedly scanned. Nothing. I texted a friend that I had come up empty. “Too bad,” she replied.
Disappointed, I decided to call it a night and return home but inwardly I felt a pull to try one more time. AND THERE IT WAS! How had I missed it? A fuzzy off-white ball with a murky white tail streaming behind it. I put the binoculars down and rested my neck and then took them up again. They zoomed in again like a laser beam straight at the comet.
A sweet, gentle euphoria filled my being. I put the binoculars down and gazed at the sky with naked eyes and could not see the comet whatsoever. I repeated this ritual several times and each time I peered through the binoculars, I found Neowise! Here I had been ready to give up and go home, but I got my reward! As an evening breeze blew through me, I basked in the quiet of the evening and my good fortune. I definitely felt some swooning inside.
The three mile wide Neowise was discovered on March 27, 2020. It became a sensation because it’s rare to see a bright comet with only the naked eye or binoculars. Neowise was discovered by a space telescope set up not to find comets but to to spot asteroids and other objects near earth. The telescope is called “Near-Earth Object Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer”. Quite a mouth-full, so Neowise for short!
RECALLING ANOTHER LUCKY MOMENT:
Having the good fortune to finally spot Neowise after some effort reminded me of a time when I was snorkeling in Maui seven years ago. I wanted to see a sea turtle SO badly and made it my mission. I snorkeled around and around in circles but began to give up hope, thinking it wasn’t going to be my day So, I made a decision to return to the beach. In that very moment the largest turtle I had ever seen swam directly under me. I couldn’t contain my excitement – my heart started beating rapidly in my chest and I was filled with joy. A beautiful, big turtle so close that I could practically reach down and touch it. I was giddy with excitement and gratitude.
Back to the evening of July 22: As I drove my golf cart home at 9:30pm I saw a woman standing alone on a sidewalk turning her head right and left, up and down and all around😃. I kept driving but then I decided to turn around and engage her in conversation.
“Are you looking for the comet?” I asked. She replied that she was. I shared my experience and told her where to go to increase her chances of viewing the comet and added, don’t forget the binoculars! She was very grateful for the information and I was happy that I had circled back to speak with her. Oh the things we learn from chance conversations!
NEO AND THE MATRIX
Let me add here that there was something nagging at the back of my mind about the name “Neowise”. What came to me immediately was:
BE AS WISE AS NEO
Who was Neo? Well, of course he was the main character in the movie The Matrix. And why was Neo special? Well, he took the red pill which unplugged his body’s neural connection to the matrix. I’ve made certain decisions in my life to unplug from what I perceive to be the matrix and trust my own gut and instincts. My grown children have made decisions to unplug in their own ways: cancelling cable, growing gardens, moving to the country, building chicken coops, and fishing and hunting to put food on the table. I am very proud of them.
To unplug from the matrix, it is imperative to ask questions. The author Charles Earnest Essert, a life long searcher, put it perfectly in his posthumously published book, “Secret Splendor: The Journey Within”:
“Questions relating to self are vital. Who am I? What am I? What am I apart from this name, this body, this mind? Why am I here? Where did I come from? Where am I going? What is the purpose of all this struggle? What is behind the curiosity which impels me to ask such questions? Queries of this nature pave the way for direct illumination for the answer comes to those who are ever seeking, asking, knocking, never to those who think they know….we must ask with the foreknowledge that we do not know and with the realization that only an expansion of consciousness which reveals the infinite can supply the answers.”
SEEK AND YOU SHALL FIND
I pray that each and everyone of you find that which your heart is seeking. It doesn’t have to be on a grand or cosmic scale; it’s usually the simple things that bring peace and joy to the heart. For example, in addition to rare streaking comets, large sea turtles, and watching my grandchildren grow, the Mexican Bird of Paradise flower imbued with deep orange and yellow hues always brings me joy. They are ubiquitous in my desert neighborhood but I never tire of looking at them. Just yesterday I was playing classical music in the backyard, and these flowers peeked over a neighbor’s wall and danced and swayed in the breeze, as if on cue with the music. I had another experience of soft swooning inside. I seek peace and understanding in Nature, and I definitely prefer to plug into Her.
What exquisitely simple thing has brought you joy lately?