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Wednesday, August 20, 2008


Kopf Hoch!

Do you ever think about how you walk? Do you walk head down, looking at the footpath ahead of you, possibly thinking about work, or what's for tea, or why there is more matter than anti-matter. Do you ever look up and see the sky in your day to day perambulations.

I thought of this today as I got off the train and ambled home, I looked up, and there was Venus gleaming in a purpling sky flecked with clouds, only 15 minutes after sunset. It only took me a moment to see it. But I'm used to looking UP.

Yesterday I tried to point Venus out to my neighbour, it should have been easy, as Venus was right next to a power pole, but he couldn't see it. Yet this morning he told me that a few moments later, as he headed up the street to his house, Venus suddenly "popped" into view. If we hadn't gone through the effort of looking together, would he have seen it at all?

We are so used to not seeing the sky, walking looking at the road ahead of us, or sitting in buses or trains, driving cars, that sometimes the only sky we see is a brief slice as we shuttle from our dwellings to work or shops. We can become so divorced from the natural environment we don't know what it is like! Earlier this week I had a conversation with one of my colleagues, a very bright academic, who had no idea that you could see the planets without a telescope (as points of light only, but he didn't realise you could see even that). Recently Stuart relayed the story of someone who couldn't even recognise the Moon.

We need to look up, to become familiar with the sky again. There are wonders there nearly every day, the effect of light in the sky, the ever changing patterns of cloud and their colours, as well of the pinpricks of stars and planets as they emerge into the twilight.

So next time you are coming home from work, or shopping, or taking the kids to sport. Look UP, who knows what you might see?


Alex Ostrowski reckons that counting chimneys can help lift one's mood -- something to do with inhibiting the production of melatonin? And I've been told more than once that designers of formal Chinese and Japanese gardens like to include something special for those who look up occasionally.
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