There’s nothing like a natural phenomenon to stir up the old curiosity. Yesterday, New England experienced a more complete solar eclipse than, I believe, the year that I turned 12 (which was a long time ago!). This offered lots of opportunities to practice curiosity.
First, there was the search for details, mainly when. Then came the search for instructions on how to make a pinhole camera. Then there were the camera assembly and testing phases. Then there was the waiting. I had made a mental note that the start, at least in New York City–was at 1:23 p.m. and the peak at 2:44. Imagining that I would be able to see the moment the moon entered the sun’s light I was outside with my pinhole camera at about 1:20.
First hurdle: I couldn’t see any difference to the sun the first ten minutes or so and got impatient. Mainly, I thought my camera wasn’t working or my eyes weren’t sensitive enough and I was going to miss the whole thing. Finally, I thought I saw a difference. Then I knew I saw a difference. From then on, I was hooked. I didn’t watch without a break, but I did keep coming back to see the progress.
Some things I noticed:
- It got noticeably cooler as the eclipse progressed to its peak.
- The blue of the sky seemed less intense.
- The shadows seemed less distinct.
- The clouds, which had been moving at quite a pace, seemed to slow down.
- It got very quiet. The wind died. The birds and the insects stopped chirping.
Somehow I had expected the moon to go across the face of the sun horizontally and was surprised that it started at the top righthand corner and moved diagonally down. (That was one reason it took me a while to recognize that something was changing. I was looking in the wrong place.)
I had also thought that the moment the peak had been reached I would go for a walk with my dog. Instead I found the second half of the eclipse just as enthralling as the first half, and my poor dog had to wait.
All in all, it took two and half hours from start to finish (you cannot rush a celestial event). I consider that an afternoon very well spent.
I saw this puzzle (link below) on Facebook and was curious 😉 enough the check it out. It is an image that looks as if it is nothing but rectangles and the viewer is asked to count the circles. I didn’t see how there could be circles but I decided to try. I focused my concentration on circles and all of a sudden, quite briefly, I saw them. It made me think about how we can see something if we really try, but we have to be open enough to trying to see beyond the obvious to succeed at that. It was fun.
A friend of mine, who regularly reads my blog, said, “You do realize that after all this you need a really spectacular finish, right?” No pressure there. 😉
In fact, I had already made a list of the topics I want to cover in the last week or so of this blog, which will end–all being well–on schedule on 31 August 2017. As this date approaches and now that I am on vacation, I am gearing up for that. Since I still work better with hard copy, this includes printing out all my posts so far so that I can review them, make some small tweaks (to categories and tags and so on), and draw some conclusions. I notice that I am feeling quite curious about what will come out for me. Although it’s only been not quite a year, some of what I have seen so far feels like it was written a long time ago.
I was open, and I did for the most part enjoy this four-hour tour de force. A few things helped. First of all, I re-read the synopsis before I went and there were sub-titles so that I had a fairly clear idea of what was happening at any given moment. Second of all, the production itself had a lot of small touches that made it easy to get wrapped up in it. Third of all, the Live from the … performances are designed to hold people’s attention with interviews and tours in the imtermissions and so on. Fourth and finally, the performances were extraordinary. Fleming was good, but the real stars of the evening were Elīna Garanča and Günther Groissböck, the Octavian and the Ochs. Garanča became the teenage boy she was singing and Groissböck gave us the great gift of a beautifully nuanced performance as Ochs. In the end, I didn’t even have to work to enjoy it. 🙂
On Day 197 I mentioned that I quite naturally practice curiosity when writing. What is it about writing that makes it easy for me to do that? One thing is that at my stage in life I hardly ever have to write about a particular topic. Certainly my blogs are very open-ended. I write about what takes my fancy. Not having an expected or required outcome helps a lot.
I also have been writing regularly for a very long time so I feel comfortable doing it. In fact, I may have even reached the 10,000 hours assumed necessary for mastery. I love the search for a particular word, the one word that feels right to me. I can easily go down the reference work rabbit hole (thesauruses, dictionaries, even encyclopedias) when I have the time. This is closely tied to desire-to-learn curiosity, I’m sure.
On top of that, I simply feel that writing is an inherently worthwhile use of my time. It doesn’t matter much to me what comes out. A lot of what I write never sees the light of day. I simply like the feeling of using my brain and putting words to paper. And I’m aware that I think better with a pen or pencil in my hand. For this reason, when I have the time to write, I don’t put myself under any pressure to finish at a certain point. I write until I’ve reached a point where I feel like stopping. That helps, too. Obviously, when I don’t have the time, it is a different story and curiosity can be an innocent casualty of the circumstances.
Tomorrow I’ll consider why I often find it easy to practice curiosity when walking in wild (but not too wild) places. Where is this all leading? I’m planning to do a summary of these posts to try and tickle out some useful ideas for intentionally enjoying the journey more.
Today I heard that one of my favorite bookstores from my earlier life in New England is closing its doors. It was a specialty bookstore, providing books in languages other than English, and will carry on online, but the store itself will be gone.
My reaction to this news showed me what an important form of curiosity browsing is to me. The 21st century version of browsing includes going down the Wikipedia rabbit hole, for example, and has charms of its own, but for me it will never compete with walking into a space designed for browsing, where you can put your hands on a book, and dip into that book easily. Amazon tries to provide this feeling with its “Look inside” function, but I find that singularly frustrating and can never really get an idea of what a book is like that way.
In my opinion, when it comes to books the internet is great if you already have a title in mind. You can get what you specifically want quickly, easily, and sometimes more cheaply. (No wonder those brick-and-mortar stores are struggling!) However, it is not great for finding out in a roundabout, enriching, surprising, curious way what is out there. It’s rather like GPS compared to maps.