Sunday, August 22, 2010

Jack Horkheimer, Star Gazer

Sunrise will be at 6:15, sunset will be at 8:09. It really is the end of August and the high today will be 63 degrees. It's raining and cold and the air smells like fresh fish. It was dark when the alarm went off, I stayed in bed, too cold and unhappy about the way the day was starting to be able to roll out and get up. Then the cat started spider hunting- you just can't sleep through that.

"Greetings, greetings, fellow Stargazers!" Jack Horkheimer's died. He was an astronomer who brought the stars to us. Every night, D and I would wait for the little pieces about the stars to come on between the Red Green show episodes late at night. In the years we've watched, he lost weight, got a toupee -we figured he had to have had a new girlfriend. He would take a jaunty little walk down the milky way and then sit on the edge of Saturn, dipping as his weight settled, and then explain what we would see in the night skies that week.

He pointed out the constellations, told us how many of our suns would fit in Antares, gave us distances in language that we could wrap our heads around. He is the reason I know that the air and the wind change when the sun rises and sets. He is the reason I get up extra early on the solstice and leave the radio off; he suggested that we take a moment before the sun rises and just pay attention to the changes as it does. A little like prayer, it is a way to connect to the birds, the wind, and the stars just once or twice a year, giving your complete attention to the world.

Standing above Battle Rock, watching the fireworks fade and seeing that the stars were coming out behind them, a flat horizon perfect for stargazing, I realized that the constellation emerging was Scorpio, Jack's favorite. And, since June, the only new one I could pick out of all the others. Beautiful, long, a graceful length of stars pinned to the sky.

We'll miss you, Jack.

"Keep looking up!"

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