(Dec. 29, 2017) Snow…icicles…cold weather…a winter wonderland!
Ah, I’m dreaming of a white…wait, what? Oops…wrong holiday!
I’m sitting in my brother’s house in Huber Heights, Ohio. The skies are gray, a soft snow is falling right now, dusting the land with a gentle white blanket. It’s the perfect, picture-post card type of snow you think of when you think of a winter wonderland. It’s soft and steady, but not anywhere near blizzard conditions.
My walkabout has paused as I wrote earlier, but I still have catching up to do. I promise I’ll get to it! I have Fort Knox to talk about, Indian, Michigan, and Indiana again. I’ll be back on the road January 3, 2018. If I get out of here on time, I plan to drive two hours south to visit the birth place of General Ulysses S. Grant, then east to the Serpent Mound, then onwards to West Virginia before finally returning to Hampton Roads for my VA appointments.
I’ve set a goal. My State Map (including Hawai’i) will be filled in by next November. I started this journey in November this year; I’ll finish it by November next year.
Very soon now “next year” will refer to 2019. The turn of the calendar to 2018 is nearly upon us. A little more than 48 hours from now and our planet will complete yet another revolution around the sun. Tethered by gravity to our home star, we are forever falling towards its center while simultaneously being flung away from it by the inertia generated by our planet’s 67,000 mph velocity.
The Earth is also rotating about her axis at about 1,000 mph (at the equator). In short, the planet’s spinning fast enough to launch everything off the surface of the planet faster than kids being flung off the Joker’s merry-go-round…except, again, we are tethered to our world by gravity.
And then there’s our solar system. Our system is in the Sagittarius Arm of the Milky Way. Gravity tethers us to that core while the whole solar system is zipping through its orbital path at something like 514,000 mph. Of course the Milky Way is also moving through space…and we have no idea if our galaxy is orbiting something even unimaginably bigger, or hurtling on a straight-line course to something unimaginably far away. But, based on measurements of cosmic background radiation, our galaxy is flying along at a respectable 1.3 million miles per hour.
So, if you put it all together, we’re all on a journey together to a very Great Unknown.
On Earth you’re moving about 1,000 miles per hour as the planet rotates.
The Earth is moving at 67,000 miles per hour around the Sun.
The sun, with all of us in tow, is hurtling around the galactic core at 514,000 miles per hour.
Finally, the Milky Way itself is speeding into the Great Dark at 1.3 million miles per hour.
And people think I walk fast!
There is a point to this minor dissertation on celestial motion. It’s called perspective.
Our world is, to us, freaking huge. We’re tiny beings compared to the scale of the planet we live on. Our problems, our wars, our triumphs, tragedies, follies and festivities all happen on this one massive globe that is, compared to the universe around, so very small. It takes hours to climb even a small mountain on this globe. Of course it’s easy to think the sun and sky and the horizon are hard boundaries defining all that is. Thing is, there’s more. Much more. Against such a monumental scale of creation, our species is truly very small.
Small, yes, but not insignificant.
Nothing about humanity that is, is insignificant. God doesn’t make insignificant things.
But perspective does help one to place a proper priority on things. I’ve had a very tumultuous year. A triumphant year, yes. But one also filled with upheaval, uncertainty, disappointment, pain, excitement, and regeneration. Still, perspective allows me to take a breath and realize that, while my triumphs and tribulations are real, they certainly aren’t world-ending. Perspective allows one a powerful tool with which to face the pain and fear life can bring without becoming overwhelmed, while also celebrating the triumphs and treasures without becoming arrogant.
I’ve had a hard year…but I’ve had a good one. A year where everything changes is never easy. But, much as the character of the Doctor in Doctor Who moves forward in a new body and persona with dramatic intensity, so do we all…just with less special effects.
The Chief has moved into the past. I will always remember when The Chief was me, but that time is done. Now I’m just a writer, traveler. Passing through, helping out, learning.
But even “just” a writer and traveler is not insignificant. Not unless I choose to make it be insignificant.
I think I’ll choose something else.
2017 was the last year the Navy defined me; now that mission is done and the watch has been secured. 2018 is the first year I define myself apart from an over-arching organization. I’ve already laid the foundations for this newest version of me. I’m looking forward to seeing who I’ll turn out to be by this time in December 2018.
I’ll meet you there. Combining just the distance the earth travels around the sun in a year plus the distance the sun is traveling around the galactic core, next December is only 12,227,500,000 miles away.
Make sure you put on some good walking shoes!