When I was considerably younger, I would swim out in the middle of the lake at midnight or thereabouts, lie on my back in the water, and float there, nearly weightless, looking up at light from so far away some of it had been reflected from stars that had not existed for longer than humans have walked on this planet.
Stars are interesting. Our sun is a star. They are responsible for all the elements that comprise everything else, including us. They burn violently, and now and then one explodes, with a blast that even from a few million miles away would turn Planet Earth to toast. I guess I don’t want to be around to learn what critter would have us for breakfast.
We were at a friend’s home on Adak Island, playing pinochle one night several years ago, and ran out of chips. It was about a mile to the store, but none of us wanted to go “all that way.”
Then it occurred to us we had recently moved to that small Aleutian island from the San Francisco Bay area, where a 15-mile jaunt to the mall would have been made without thought.
And there was the time I visited my son in Ohio and wanted a set of Dayton tires for my pickup. “Where can I go in Maine to buy a pair,” I asked the salesman in Cincinnati.
He looked in his computer and named a tire outlet.
“That’s in Bangor, about two hours from home,” I said.
He searched deeper, and named another outlet.
“That’s in Portland,” I said, “about the same distance in another direction.”
But a two-hour drive isn’t all that far to get a set of good tires. It’s closer than Cincinnati.
I read once that the size of most counties east of the Mississippi were determined by how far a farmer could travel to the county seat, conduct his business at the courthouse and general store, enjoy an evening in town and a sleep in a clean bed, and next morning go home.
Politics and population probably also had something to do with county size. When finally there were sufficient residents to convince the state legislature they deserved their own county, those in power in the existing county would be told to give up some of their real estate.
The county in which I live was made that way. The land that eventually would define it was part of Lancaster County until 1749, when a chunk of Lancaster County was carved off to make York County. And in 1800, York County gave up a portion of its western region to create Adams County.
Most of us are born, grow up, work, raise our offspring and live out our lives within a few mile radius. We don’t worry much about airport searches because we don’t fly more than once or twice a year. We know we have offspring fighting and dying in Afghanistan, but many of us are not sure where that is, relative to “here.”
I’ve been talking with a woman who soon will travel to India to learn about coffee farming. She was born in Pakistan, and has traveled some.
“When we say ‘love thy neighbor,’ we need to include India (in the neighborhood),” she said. “India is not that far.”
A 130,000-pound chunk of rock about half the size of a football field will pass really close to us this weekend – within 17,200 miles of my home, more or less. I need about a year and more than 780 gallons of gasoline to drive my Jeep that far, but scientists are excited about how close it will be – more than twice the distance between Washington, D.C. and New Delhi, India.
It’s all about perspective.