Saturday, 21 December 2013

Giving thanks...for comets, and water, and other things...

Ison - as it was

It's the shortest day. Direct opposite of the longest day. How lucky we are to experience both - the preciousness of light on this the shortest day, and the splendour of the seemingly endless light that creeps towards midnight on the summer solstice, and all that glorious warming sunshine. 

I'm presently at home alone with the two ladies and my imagination is captured by thoughts of Comet Ison - a comet that was due to pass by Earth a few weeks ago. Comet Ison was to potentially deliver access to elusive information about big issues - such as how life on Earth began, where did all the water on come from? Basic stuff like that ;) Did all the Earth's water come from the water that is locked up in comets and then released on their impact with the Earth over millions of years? Or, are complex molecules - such as amino acids - created in comets? Scientists have proven in the lab that the nuclear energy created by the impact of a comet on the Earth is sufficient to re-organise the bonds and atoms in simple molecules, to form more complex molecules that require high energy inputs, and ultimately to form some of the basic building blocks of amino acids, the stuff proteins are made of and the like. If they - all those comets - hit the Earth and that caused amino acids to be formed....well, use your imaginations. Life on Earth - sure, but life elsewhere? Why not - just not as we know it. Mind boggling. Check out details of the Rosetta Mission for your own learning. Sadly, Comet Ison burned out when it was passing by the sun and we lost the chance to study and analyse in greater detail. So be it - but so disappointing for all the scientists looking forward to getting their gloved paws on precious rare data that would - that might - answer questions that are fundamental to the origins of life on Earth. 

It's tough being a scientist - first of all you're expected to know everything, when really your doctorate degree only qualifies you to understand how very little you know about even the most simplest and fundamental of questions about life. And yet we see it all around us, unquestioning in its being - we see it as we know it: life. It's there in our varied cultures, traditions, Christmas, seasons, families, love, beauty, nature, makes one feel incredibly small and incredibly insignificant in a vast universe, in a less vast galaxy, in a small solar system and on a beautiful yet (relatively speaking) teeny, weeny, blue green planet - Earth. It certainly makes me feel incredibly small and incredibly grateful. Grateful for the big things - like the Earth itself, and the water and the air and all those things we take for granted everyday - and grateful for the small things - the small things like....
  • A fleeting glimpse of the sun on a solstice morning
  • A bright blue sky tinged by pink on the distant horizon
  • The rain falling
  • The smell of fresh bread baking 
  • Alannah's smile
  • An unexpected kiss on the back of the neck from the one you love
  • The wagging tail on a very happy Holly dog when she can't contain her excitement at getting to go for a run through the woods
  • Christmas lights
  • Time with dear friends that you only ever get to see at Christmas
  • The warmth of your kitchen as you listen to the wind blow and the rain fall outside
  • And most of all, the promise of more to come...
Happy Solstice and of course Happy Christmas everybody!

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