Stardust

Let’s start with this creepy little statistic: Every single day, one-hundred tons of meteorite dust coats the entire planet. You, me, the cars, buildings, everywhere, everything. It is so miniscule, of course, that we don’t even know it is happening, preferring instead to wait for the Leonid shower, or the Perseid, the Geminid, or even the Urid, to run outside and watch shooting stars every twenty or thirty seconds on a clear moonless night. Who isn’t transfixed by that? No one says, “Hey, I’m covered in microscopic meteor dust; make a wish!” But equally, who isn’t freaked out by the thought of meteor dust in their hair? On their ice cream cone?

This Earth of ours is at its core about ten thousand degrees Fahrenheit, exactly the same as the surface of the sun. Symmetry aside, one has to wonder if The Great Thermometer simply stops tracking at 10K. Also, Earth is the only planet not named for a God, and as crazy as this seems, no one knows who named it, though the etymological roots are Germanic and Old English. As for age, Scientists–the ones who know what they’re talking about because of generations of research–say the planet is about 4.5 billion years old, but humans of any sort have only been here for about 450,000 years. Some traditions and faiths call the start date around six thousand years ago. Either way, the human portion of earth hasn’t been here that long and isn’t staying long enough to wear out our welcome. It seems the earth is cleansing herself.

Since the onset of the Covid pandemic, this planet has shed about three thousand humans per day. That’s a 911 every single day. We are improving, but we are doing it on a very slippery slope. Why? Well, we’ve so adjusted for life to be “convenient” (think Smart Phone, think 5G, think online everything, think curbside, think Drive-thru, think Alexa, think Lunchables), that too many believe if some aspect of life is inconvenient, they’ll simply redefine reality to accommodate what they want, even if it chips away at Earth’s patience.

We’ve traded the rare beauty of this one-of-a-kind globe for “whatever’s easier.” The percolator becomes Mr. Coffee becomes a Keurig. It’s easier. We are completely, arguably, most definitively reliant upon the 2500 operational satellites orbiting the earth (about 6000 actually are orbiting, but more than half simply don’t work–how inconvenient). So here’s the thing: According to scientists who know what they’re talking about and constantly work on and adjust the Asteroid-Satellite Collision Probability, when a meteor or other such space object hits a satellite, the rock “vaporizes into hot, electrically charged gas that can short out circuits and damage electronics, causing the satellite to spin out of control.” Don’t worry about being hit–it’ll burn up on reentry into the planet’s atmosphere. No, that’s not the problem.

See the problem? Yes, no more satellite.

And if a large such space rock plays pinball with Space X’s system of communication, we here are earth are, as they might say on “Eureka,” simply fracked. And if one of them or a flock of them zero in on the Great Siberian Forest setting it ablaze, we are, once again, Stardust, part of the atmosphere, that naked-to-the-eye coating which exploded countless zeros away from here several billion years ago, arriving, now, on our chocolate swirl cone.

The greatest scientists in the world who know what they’re talking about have trouble wrapping their minds around this simple idea: We, Earth, are an anomaly, God’s only child. Even if you believe somewhere in the deep recesses of unthinkable distance are planets with lifeforms playing Scrabble and drinking Pinot Noir, astrophysicists like Stephen Hawking, Neil Tyson, Carl Sagan, and Brian May can’t tell you where, and they’ve looked with equipment so advanced some of it has left the solar system, some landed on moving asteroids, and some is scooping up dirt like a dog-walker in Central Park and bringing it back. Then they study it, then they tell us they still don’t know.

But they can tell us around 100 tons of meteorite dust coats the earth, and us, daily.

I walked to the river earlier. Unplugged and, to be honest, uninterested in much. The day started poorly but finished really strong, but still I felt like going for a long walk in the mountains or sitting on the sand at the gulf, quietly. Instead, here I am, more than a little content to look out at a distant bridge and watch the cars and trucks cross the mile and a half reach headed North, up toward DC, up toward New York, up, just further and further up, perhaps as far as the northern stretch of Ontario to watch the Northern Lights bounce across time. But closer, near me on the river, some bufflehead ducks surfaced and dove again. Watermen on a workboat checked traps.

See, it is information like this that makes me aware of why when a student asks me about subject-verb agreement I’m wondering why we can only see about 2000-3000 stars, not “millions” as we feel when standing at the bay on a clear, moonless night. And my frustration at knowing I have so much I want to see, so many glasses of wine to drink with friends in European pubs and small quaint villages, brings me to the brink of psychosis when someone actually screws up simple comma rules. Part of me wants to say, “Come on! This isn’t rocket science! It’s a fracking comma, for God’s sake!” but in the past few years, a stronger part of me, a more conscious part, wants to whisper, “You’re doing fine. It’s just commas–I knew what you meant. Now go outside and bathe in the miracle of meteorite dust. Buy a cone and wait for it.”

We’ve drifted too far astray from the essential, so far afield from what matters.

We’ve got to get ourselves back to the garden.

2 thoughts on “Stardust

  1. Maybe that stuff that floats through the window with sunlight and floats around in the air if you look at it just so, maybe that stuff is meteorite dust. Maybe that makes it more magical than it already was.

    Liked by 1 person

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