Thursday, April 5, 2012

Cosmos in Chaos

...being the first installment in a series of stories about the stars and me, which I first introduced several weeks ago.

(At the moment there's a lot percolating in my mind about information literacy, in response to a handful of things I've read/encountered recently, but it needs to marinate a bit longer before I'm ready to post on it. So for now, travel with me back to my star-filled childhood...)


In elementary school, my favorite time of year was when the Star Lab visited my school. This was a giant tent-like contraption, held aloft by a powerful fan which blew chilly air into its interior--making it feel much like the outdoors, or so I told myself. We'd crawl into this dark artificial cave, lie on our backs, and have an expert from the planetarium conduct a star show for us. We learned to identify the North Star (brightest star in the sky!), and how to find the Big and Little Dippers in relation to it. The other constellations would soon follow, and we watched as they rotated across the ceiling of the Star Lab, a (relatively) top-speed reenactment of how they move through the night sky throughout the year.

Image courtesy of Flickr user nd-nʎ via a CC license

To my young eyes, this was magic: having one picture after another appear before my eyes, as soon as each relational key was identified. These pictures revealed meaning to me: cosmos in chaos. It did my young heart good.

Perhaps as a result of the magic I encountered in the Star Lab, for my first ever science fair project I decided to create a large star chart, mapping all of the constellations in our region. For stars, I used the stickers that teachers use to award gold stars to students, and traced out the constellations as best as I could in relation to one another on a big piece of poster board. The project didn't win any prizes in the science fair, but I kept it on display in my bedroom for quite a number of years. It comforted me to look at it across my room when I'd settle into bed at night because it represented to me a map by which I could see the world around me more clearly--by it I could see meaning where otherwise there would be just darkness.

In honor of this, I also decorated my bedroom door frame with glow-in-the-dark stars: my mom preferred that I didn't stick them on the ceiling. This archway of stars crowned the entry to my childhood bedroom, and kept me company in the dark.

Project 366: December 16th, Day 351
Image courtesy of Flickr user Coldspire via a CC license

As a child I wanted to be surrounded by the stars--to live among them if I could. These were my attempts to make that happen.

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