Saturday, 27 January 2007

Frozen Fireworks

This is a daggy little thing my friend KL sent me.

It’s appropriate because on Wednesday night ... we watched Comet McNaught in the western sky over the sea out at St Kilda - what a sight.
(Please note - I do not and never intended to, take credit for this amazing photo - if it doesn't show the name of the person who took it, and such things matter to you, please click on it to find out who the clever person was.)


Classical Comet
Originally uploaded by Tirau Dan.


And not to be outdone, there off to the right was the very moon of which the song speaks, slipping down behind the hills of Kew - a C-shaped moon, which in the Southern Hemisphere means it’s into its first quarter; whereas in the Northern Hemisphere the first quarter is a D-shaped moon. Being married to a science teacher you see, means I get to know all these things about how the solar system works. (Which because of my non-retentive brain, have to be explained to me over and over because I always forget.)



The comet was glorious - bright and clear. Its long tail flowing behind it like a frozen shower of fireworks, is actually 300 million kilometers long. The Southern Cross was up and a little to the east of the comet - easily found by first locating the two bright marker stars. And the pot - or saucepan - which in our part of the sky is the bottom half of Orion’s belt and sword, was farther over towards north-east. We watched the sinking moon and the glory of a comet heading west, to the accompaniment of tree frogs and the beat of St Kilda's surf.

***
Speaking of wonders, another is - Baby H ... my charge through the day Monday to Thursday. I am besotted and beguiled; every little burp and sneeze is a marvel. My whole working day revolves around his routine - his sleeps, his gurgles, his feeds, his nappies (which I better explain to my American friends, are what you call ‘diapers’.) All of these are of major note. And meaningful stuff. He is his own marvellous little miracle. His own amazing production line. And so the day goes, watching his every move, listening to every coo and chortle. I sing ‘Eency Weency Spider’ and ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Star’ and smile and laugh and open my mouth wide and huff and talk and go ‘Beeedy beedy bop’ - you know, all those silly things you do with babies. And he thinks I am funny and fascinating and wonderful - and I think he is too - so there’s this mutual appreciation-buzz-thingy going on the whole day long. Most days, because he and his family live in an apartment right in the city, we go out for a quick coffee - he sleeps and I read the newspaper and drink my long-black-with-milk-on-the-side. But the best thing about being Baby H's nanny is - I don’t get to do the 3.00 a.m. feeds! There’s a wonderful cut-off point when I say good-bye to beautiful, Baby H and go back to my other life. Perfect.

And I have Fridays off too - thus giving me a three-day weekend. Today was Friday - the sun came out and ABM & I pruned some more branches to give us a far view from our kitchen window through to our back section. All we need now is a rustic seat placed there to give the illusion of days spent sitting under trees. I did sit out on our front deck to eat my lunch and spotted a kereru (which aren't hard to miss!)

kereru 3
Originally uploaded by C Buckley.
sitting in one of the silver birches. I took a peek at it through the binoculars, marvelling again at the markings - the white baker’s apron, the iridescent bottle-green feathers, the tiny head with red-rimmed eyes. I also saw little wax-eyes with their short attention spans, a couple of fantails

fantail
Originally uploaded by nzkiwi.
looping the loop, as well as the inevitable yahooing seagull on its way to the beach. And of course, as always, the ever-present, talkative sparrows. (Once again, here are flickr photos of a couple of the birds I mention.)

***

Last night at 1.30 a.m., I finished reading Clare Dudman’s ‘One Day The Ice Will Reveal All Its Dead’. It’s about Alfred Wegener, a much-overlooked German scientist who first mooted the idea of continental drift. His theories in the larger scheme of things, turn out to be vital in determining the way the earth was geologically formed, and is still forming and changing. Wegener basically spent his life trying to convince and prove to other experts that his theory was right. The details and descriptions in this book are expertly crafted by Clare, and they effortlessly place the reader into the frame of time and place. I was especially satisfied by the descriptions of the icy wildernesses of the far northern terrains of Greenland and Iceland - the ice formations and colours, the descriptions of tiny flowers, of lights in the sky, of light reflected through ice, of mirages and the delusions, the realities and the clarity on both clear, cold days and in among the frozen mists and wastes when sky and earth revolve as one; the impact of wind and of extreme cold. The smell of unwashed humans in close contact, the sound of sledge runners, the effect of ice on skin and environment; the taste of pemmican. The agony of fruitless death. The ecstasy of a day going well, with smooth ground underfoot and blue sky overhead. There is not a detail missed. Clare has an intuitive feel for character portrayal and for place. Her writing is strong and clear. Not that I was consciously thinking about that as I was reading, I was just enjoying the story. Wegener’s personality and life, told in his own voice, is brilliantly drawn by Clare. The scientific, more technical side of his life, fascinating in itself, is nicely balanced by the portrayal, both affectionate and incisive, of his domestic life and inner conundrums. He has a touching vulnerability I warmed to and an appreciation of life’s bitter-sweetness that I could identify with. It has all you look for in a good book - tension, strength, reality, the power to take you right to the heart of place, and characters who fascinate and engage. The story has a sweet sadness beautifully portrayed by a master storyteller. I like a book I start reading and immediately trust. A book I know is going to take me to places I wouldn't otherwise be able to go. Clare's 'One Day The Ice Will Reveal All Its Dead' is such a book. Order it from Amazon and read it! You'll be glad you did.

***

20 comments:

Catherine said...

I'm beginning to think everyone in New Zealand has seen the comet except me. We have had cloudy night after cloudy night. P saw it through a break in the cloud one night while I was away. My friends in Palmerston North saw it on a clear night before I got there (but it was cloudy in Christchurch that night). I keep thinking, what if Captain Cook had sailed to the South Seas and found the transit of Venus obscured by cloud? :)
Loved your descriptions of the comet, of the book, of the baby and everything

chiefbiscuit said...

catherine - Thanks! I truly hope you get to see the comet - it's simply awesome - I had to pinch myself really ... an amazing, amazing thing to witness, I am praying for a clear night for you tonight in Christchurch.

pepektheassassin said...

Oh, me too with the sleeping and rocking and feeding and nappies and Eensie weensie spider and this little piggy...but mine will end in two weeks, and you'll still have yours!

I am envious of you seeing the comet. I tried, but it was always cloudy or snowing or raining. I DID see the last one, whatever it was called. We drove out to the shores of the Great Salt Lake at midnight, with the binoculars....

Catherine said...

Chiefbiscuit, my daughter thought it wasn't all that great - just a star with a tail! so I am reminding myself that every sunset I get to witness is probably far more beautiful and amazing, we just tend to take sunsets for granted as they are more common than comets.

chiefbiscuit said...

pepek - Have fun while you're there with him. he'll be part of your whole life, whereas for me it's just for a part of my life - you're in the better boat!

catherine - That is just so right! That night we were somehow even more appreciative of the moon and stars which we see all the time, because of the comet I think.

apprentice said...

Great pictures,the birds there looking really interesting. Congrats on the comet, I think seeing them is a wonderful things as they come around so infrequently one feels bit specially blessed to be here when they do. I saw Halley's Comet in 86, and it was fantastic.

Jan said...

Enjoy your long w/end!

Frances said...

I can imagine what it must be like to see a comet. I love the fantail birdie pic - he's sooo cute.
Thanks for letting us see some of your world.
Take care

Tammy said...

Cool Comet and how great your hubby never tires of reminding you ;)

Baby H sounds like a doll and his parents are lucky to have found someone to make "the sounds & faces."

Great review for Clare...can't wait! HUGS

Sabine said...

Hi chiefbiscuit

I know it's OT, but your book has finally arrived! It only took them about half a year to deliver it... I will start reading over the weekend.

Sabine

January said...

Enjoy the time with Baby H. As with comets, opportunities don't come around as often as they should.

Hope all is well with you.

chiefbiscuit said...

apprentice - yes it was an amazing experience. I don't remember haileys but ABM remembers taking out our oldest boy to see it when he was just a toddler.

jan - The long weekend has come and gone - already - how time flies!

frances - thanks for dropping by.

tammy - Thanks for the great comments - keep in touch - love your grandson photo!

sabine - How fantastic! Thank you for buying it. Hope you enjoy it - let me know what you think.

january - Hi - thanks for dropping by - all is well - I must pay you a visit! In fact ... no time like the present ;)

paris parfait said...

Lovely post - so much here - a comet, a baby, a book!

Remiman said...

CB,
I've never seen a comet...perhaps some day. It must be thrilling and to have a personnal star guide with you makes it even more so.
Thanks for sharing the bird pics and descriptions. Still another reason to visit your part of the planet.
Your book reviews are always inticing, but I must finish "Mr. Biswas" first, if you know what I mean.
rel

The Elusive Loo said...

There was a comet on the news in the UK a few weeks ago or it could have been a meteor. Either way it looked a lot like that.

I missed seeing it in person though :-(

Meander Knot Press said...

...and red talons, did you mention those red feet? The comet, oh my, what a wonderful sight that must have been. My sister, who is comiing to visit this week for her birthday, would love that book!

chiefbiscuit said...

pp - i know, I know - I can hardly contain myself! It's almost all to much for one person to bear. :)

rel - Hope you enjoy the Mr Biswas book - let me know what you think of it.

elusive loo - it would've been the same comet for sure. I don't know for how much longer it's around ...

mkp -Yes the red feet - of course - funny what you take for granted.
Hope your sister enjoys NZ. I wonder if she'll get to see the comet?

mcdinzie said...

its been too cloudy here to see the comet except for saturday night and we werent home with camera's in hand....typical!!!


Sounds like you have met your perfect match :)

Catherine said...

Still too cloudy to see the comet, but then again, those clouds are what make sunsets so beautiful. I remember seeing Halleys in 1986, we were on an island off the coast of Queensland so it was good and dark, but still it was only a fuzzy ball in the binoculars. My grandmother recalled it in 1910, when her brothers convinced her that the earth would pass through the tail of the comet and they would all be burnt up.
The next time round, Halley's may be as spectacular as 1910, but I don't suppose I'll still be here to see it. Nor to see comet McNaught when it comes around again in about 86000 years time.

chiefbiscuit said...

mcd - Sorry you're under the clouds. Yes it's a match made in heaven!

catherine - I'm sure you're going to see the comet - just gotta feeling.

Harbour

Harbour
'how this all harbours light'