Quote of the Month

"Not all those who wander are lost." J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, 1954.

“We must change our attitudes toward the ocean. We must regard it as no longer a mystery, a menace, something so vast and invulnerable that we need not concern ourselves with it … Instead we want to explore the themes of the ocean’s existence—how it moves and breathes, how it experiences dramas and seasons, how it nourishes its hosts of living things, how it harmonizes the physical and biological rhythms of the whole earth, what hurts it and what feeds it—not least of all, what are its stories.” Jacques Yves Cousteau, 1910-1997.

"It's the glory of the sea that has turned my head." Robert Louis Stevenson, Treasure Island, 1894.

"It is with you as with the sea: the most varied names are given to what is in the end only salt water." Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Maxims and Reflections, 1833.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Through My Looking Glass: The V-Berth Hatch


Jupiter (Institute of Technical Science, University of Oregon, Eugene, OR)

November 4, 2012, midnight hour, Isleta Marina.  Pleasantly exhausted after a day sail, I went to sleep early, around 9:00 p.m., in Andariego’s forward cabin. Sometime around midnight, the light of a star peeking through the V-berth hatch woke me up. I checked the Distant Suns and Star Walk apps in my iPhone. It was Jupiter. Overcast skies, only a few selected stars peeked through the veil of clouds at a time. The hatch is small so my selection was even more delimited—but rich.
Cancer Constellation (Wiki-The Stars in Cancer)
The first constellation I identified was Cancer, the Crab. The moon (waning gibbous, 66.7%) was astronomically in the Cancer Constellation. With intuitive imagination, I was able to see its pincers and form. This fascinated me, to the point of awe, because before going to sleep I had been reading a book (The Quest for the Zodiac: The Cosmic Code Beyond Astrology (1999) by John Lash) about the difference between the astronomy or sidereal ecliptic and the tropical astrology ecliptic, the stuff of popular horoscopes in newspapers. They don’t match.
Technically, you have to move one constellation back to get the actual constellation in the sky (not the horoscope sign) where the sun was on your birth date. Astronomically, mine would have been Cancer, a water element, rather than Leo, a fire element in the popular horoscope. Coincidence?
After cloud curtain calls in the hatch theater stage, I recognized Gemini, the Twins. Outside the ecliptic, I identified the little dog, Canis Minor. Then there was Orion, the Hunter, with his three shiny stars for a belt. As I dozed off, after Jupiter’s wake-up call in the midnight hours, I saw Aldebaran, the brightest star in Taurus, the bull’s eye. Sixty-eight light years away, Aldebaran, the red star, is a reminder of my life’s passage, and that looking at stars is to look into our past, individual and evolutionary. As one looks into the deepest depth of the universe (the self) even through the hatch of a small sailboat on a cloudy night, the book’s question invokes mental shivers: “How is humanity living through me?” (Lash 99).
The ‘writing-in-the-sky’ was not clear to me but at some deeper level, seeing the moon in Cancer after reading about it made me understand something I cannot express with words—a most difficult confession for a PhD linguist. In semiotic terms (a branch of linguistics that studies the meaning of signs), this is something that I want to pursue in my sailing adventures. Perhaps I can call it, astro-semiotics
I’ll finish this entry with a quote from Empedocles, a pre-Socratic philosopher: “A wanderer exiled from the great origins, in former times I was already a boy and a girl, a bush and a bird, a mute fish in the sea.” (Lash 89). I am a wanderer rediscovering the language of the stars.