Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Cosmic Music and Dances

This past weekend, while taking a run over the winding paths of the almost 200 acres of primitive timber, I came upon a stand of ancient trees that had been blown over in a recent windstorm. They were already being cut up by the parks people. As I counted the rings of the largest oak, I grieved for the great loss and said a prayer of thanks for its life that gave so much to so many for so long — which turned out to be over 300 years. I counted at least 310 rings, but I know I missed quite a few where the saw had blurred the wood.

Three hundred and ten years past takes us to the year 1700, when New York was still an English Colony of 5,000 people (2nd to Boston, pop. 7,000) — Queen Anne is the monarch of England. In that year a law is passed ordering all Roman Catholic priests to leave the colony within three months, upon penalty of life imprisonment or execution. In October 1701, Yale College will be established in Connecticut. Benjamin Franklin will be born in Boston in 1706, a year after slaves in Virginia are assigned the status of real estate. The only real estate being developed on Manahatta was at the south tip of the island — now the Wall Street area — so this oak tree was growing in a true, undeveloped wilderness, which has remained virtually untouched since then.

A little later on another path, I came to the magnificent point at the highest area, which overlooks the Hudson River with a magnificent view down and up-river, as well as the Palisade Cliffs of New Jersey. To my surprise, there was a small poster affixed to the fence that advised a few local astronomers would be gathering in the field there at 8:30 that evening, and invited anyone who wanted to come and see the stars through their telescopes.

That night was one of the windiest nights we've had all year, with gusts over 50 mph, and at dusk, walking the mile back into the woods, I was a bit worried about falling branches and trees. Indeed, yet another tree at the base of the forest had become uprooted just before I passed it. By the time I reached the summit, the air temp was dropping quickly and the wind was howling so loudly that the small group of people already gathered there had to shout over the gale to be heard.

The telescope was impressive, and one just entered in 3 sets of numbers to get a "spherical triangulation" and then its computer moved the lens to pinpoint any star or planet desired. Venus had already risen in the west, and soon Mars and Jupiter were visible as the night grew darker. Although it was interesting to see them through the lens, I was not prepared for the thrill that Saturn sent up my spine. I felt a kind of shock at seeing the actual, glowing rings, as well as a few of its many moons, and was transfixed, unable to process their reality. And as I watched, I realized I was clairvoyantly hearing music — Saturn was humming! It was singing an aria in the never-ending cosmic opera spinning and turning about over our heads — and of which we're an integral part. I hope to return again this weekend for another look and a listen.

A few days later I came across a rather large series of 52 wonderful little books — "Wooden Books", with titles like "The Alchemist's Kitchen" and "Sacred Geometry"; "Platonic Solids", "Dowsing" and "Q.E.D." — I was drawn to and bought "A Little Book of Coincidence" which reveals "the exquisite orbital patterns of the planets and the mathematical relationships that govern them." The Foreword asks, "Is it all just a coincidence, or do the patterns perhaps explain the scientists?"

What an incredible, lovely, weird little book. There's a chapter, "Music of the Spheres" which states that the entire solar system can be viewed as "a tuned quantum structure, with Jupiter as the conductor of the universe." The illustrations are marvelous and enchanting, with many diagram that reveal the magical-but-beautifully true renderings the planets are continuously etching onto space, such as "The Flower of Life" produced by the orbit of Venus as it dances with Earth. The results look just like the Spirograph I had as a kid — and which still is available for kids to this day.

Image Copyright by
[This image (to scale) shows dance of Venus and Earth - each of the fine lines connects both planets over time required to complete 8 orbits by Earth (and 13 orbits by Venus). Orbit of Earth is cropped out.]

Rings of 300 year old oak trees, and rings of a 4.6 billion year old planet! As it often says, and in many ways in The Risen, "worlds within worlds".