I have some other things to add to my blog, and I will after the next couple of days as I have a conference for work that I am attending for Google on Education that I am excited about. Priorities! Anway, I will warn you up front, this is one of those Jay's rants on the hobby. So if you want to bail up front, RUN AWAY NOW! If not, read on at your own risk or until you opt out by clicking out.
I've been thinking lately about the hobby and where I am at with it and why I keep doing it. I've done it for a long time, seen a bunch of stuff, still have more to see. I've done the following/Completed the following.
Messier List, Binocular Messier, Hershel 400, Herschel 400 II, Caldwell List, Carbon Star Program, Flat Galaxies Program, Galaxy Group and Clusters, Lunar Program, Planetary Nebula Program, Sketching Observing Award, Double Star Program and working of course, on the Herschel 2500 and the NGC/IC list.
Let me state I have never received the actual award for these. I went to apply for them, and the club member in charge wanted my sketches with my logs to go through them. The logs I can print off, or email, no biggie. The sketches. Nope. They aren't going anywhere, they stay with me so I have never submitted for them, and at this point, I don't care. It doesn't matter that my name is in the Reflector, or I get a pin and certificate. Heck, its been ten, twelve or more years since I did some of them so nope, not seeking public recognition. Though my friend Jeff did make me an award banner with pins that represented some of them several years ago. I still have that not because of the accomplishments it represents, but because Jeff made it for me. THAT, is what is important to me.
Huh? Important? Yeah, it is the people I have meant and that I continue to meet in doing the hobby as one of the reasons why I enjoy it. I have at age 51, come to believe that we have to be entangled with others in order for our lives to make sense. The more people we are entangled with, and stay entangled with, the more value our lives have, not to us, but to others. I guess that is the opposite of individualism, but I believe we are social creatures by nature, and that means being interactive and involved. It's why I may sometimes pretend that having a bunch of people show up to dark site is way too much, but then to watch them take credit for being there and be amazed at how dark the sky is, well, isn't that just incredible! It is fun to watch what others do and say and experience.
However, I am also finding that as I do the hobby, I do it more and more on my own. I am able to take a day or two off during the week of new moon, in the middle of the week to recharge my batteries and reconnect to the universe. I like that also. It does not bother me to be alone, to hear the coyotes serenading me at twilight or in the pre-dawn morning. To listen to crickets in the night as they chirp their symphony of song with the world around them. To hear, and see birds, night hawks, owls, bald eagles and other birds in the late afternoon, twilight and night do their thing. To listen to my choice of music or to a podcast if I choose to while observing. To get drawn into the night and the sky above while keeping a conscious awareness of nature around me. To sit back in my observing chair, to look up, and realize yet again, in humility, that I am not the center of the universe. Yet when I look up, I also realize that I am connected to the universe and thus to each of us. That as a human being, you and I are connected, that we come from the stars, and that is just incredible. We are entangled with our universe and thus with each other.
One thing that has really struck me of late is the need to be awed but what we see. When I started in this hobby, I was amazed at what I saw, what I could see and when I would find a difficult object, I did a Jay celebration dance. I am finding fainter objects now, harder objects, yet I don't do too many Jay celebration dances anymore. Probably a good thing if there are a lot of people around! In truth though, I should be just as excited today as I was back when I started in finding a Messier object or one of my first Herschel 400 objects. Am I? If not, why not? It's why I have changed what I do. I still sketch, I will always sketch because I love doing it and it does make me a better observer. Probably need to get more basic in it, though. I also love just observing the sky, taking digital notes or typing them into SkyTools 3 and keeping a record that way. So now I am entangled in doing both based on the night. I'm flexible with what the night provides and that is an important lesson for life. Be flexible.
I've decided that I think I am going to put together a book of my sketches by seasons, of what can be seen and what it looks like in my telescope. It probably won't sell, may not get to the printer for that matter, but I think I want to try. If nothing else, I think it would be a nice way to document some of my efforts even if the book is just made for me and my family. I need to share that idea with my friend, Alex Massey as he should do the same. He'll make money on his book! Hopefully my sketches and observations show how I get entangled in the hobby.
So where am I going? To Forest Road 006 on the Wasatch-Cache National Forest Land south of Vernon, Utah to observe at new moon. In my backyard to do double star and lunar observing during the lunar cycle. To continue to observe, sketch, enjoy and recharge when I get out to that location. To hope I can last another twenty years doing this and at 71 see where I am at, and hopefully still be here at 71. To perhaps get some others to want to go out to dark sites and observe on their own, to recharge, to get away from the combustible confusion and grind of our daily lives, and re-connect with nature and the universe and realize, well, to realize whatever it is they need or want to realize. It isn't for me to say that. Ah, some wisdom in middle-age finally!
So my purpose today? To remind you that equipment is great. Fun to have and to purchase. Planning to do stuff is great. More important is to get out and do, to get entangled. Get out and observe whatever the night sky gives you tonight if it is clear. Get out and spend time with your loved ones if you don't do astronomy for the same reason; being entangled with others is what matters. Get out and get entangled with astronomy, with others, with nature, with our universe and see how that makes you a richer, better and more interesting person! Get Entangled!