The Universal Dance

Easter – April

Blinding me as I sought to find the outer edges of the celestial object, the full moon filled my left eye. I gazed through the coin-sized lens of the telescope. Perception tunneled and reflected by mirrors and technology I don’t quite understand forced me to look at the familiar in an unfamiliar way. Once again, I was reminded of my longing – within a 15-second glance – to understand how my own human orbit fits into the grand scheme of the world.

It was Holy Thursday, and friends visiting from the East coast made plans for us to go to the National Observatory on Kitt Peak, about 55 miles from Tucson and nearly 7,000 feet up into the Quinlan Mountain range. This scientific laboratory has been in operation since 1958 and is operated by the National Optical Astronomy Observatory on land leased from the Tohono O’odham Nation. In addition to those managed by the NAOA, several universities conduct research either on site or remotely through the numerous telescopes housed in vintage domed metallic monuments that punctuate the rocky landscape.

Our tour began at sunset with a vast westward view of the Sonoran Desert. As the final rays descended below the visual horizon, a 180-degree turn allowed our tour group to witness the rising full moon. To feel embraced in the revolution of sun, moon, and emerging stars in the quiet moments of sunset and moonrise…well, I wasn’t the only one who immersed myself in the drama of this natural cinematography.

Once the sky darkened, we charted the stars and grabbed binoculars to look for familiar constellations, marveling at what we cannot normally see, searching back light years to locate elusive stars between the stars. We then took turns at a 20-inch reflector telescope where we first looked at a set of stars that to the naked eye looks like one orb , but on a deeper magnified dive, reveals twins – one yellow and one blue! We glanced at a constellation, totally invisible from the ground that is comprised of several hundred thousand stars. I admit to feeling emotional as I focused on a nebula. Within this gaseous swirl, I saw stardust, dying light.

As I waited my turn to see the moon, I enjoyed the peace of sitting within the confines of the observatory dome, wrapping myself in the breezes drifting through the open roof. Holy Thursday – a night of reckoning. Good Friday, when some say an eclipse darkened the afternoon sky upon Jesus’ death – a divine marriage of God and the cosmos. And then there is “me,” a relatively tiny celestial being, whose faith tells me that my tenuous hold to this spinning Earth is not only reckoned by gravity, but by a force that was created by God. Easter. He has risen with the sun, the moon, and the stars. I am an integral part of this universal dance.

Principal’s Ponderings

Eternal Embrace – A Poem

At your birth you stretch your arms for the first time 
Reach for your Holy Mother from the crib 
You embrace us...all 
 
Later, we encounter you, arms outstretched
Reaching for your Holy Father from the cross 
Eternally embracing us...all 
 
In the chaos of Holy Week, we are swept into that timeless crowd 
Willing and unwilling voyeurs
Soulful, sorrowful, sacrificial
 
Despite the confusion, your labored breath plays soft chords 
Among transparent leaves nestling buds
Spilling color on a fresh season
 
We sense fragile light casting shadows around corners of day 
We chase hope through a lifetime 
Three days made all the difference 
 
A profound timeline persists
While the sun sets and rises on your crucifixion 
Nature continues to weave star-filled patterns of the hours 
 
We dare to cast our eyes into the empty tomb 
Reaching through Heaven’s light
All…seek your embrace

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