Monday, February 26, 2018


As intrepid Voyager One left the neighborhood of our star’s planetary system in February, 1990, it turned around and shot a last photo of earth, by then four billion miles away.  Carl Sagan called the photo “The Pale Blue Dot.”  It was only a pixel caught in a sunbeam.

Here’s another recent shot of our earth and our moon:

For me, this somehow puts all the British Royal Family’s pomp and glitter, and the perpetual petty partisan squabbles and corruption in Washington, and the nuclear posturing of North Korea’s Kim, and the egomania in Hollywood, and all my life’s insignificant concerns, in solemn perspective.

That small blue marble in this lonely photo is the only home we’ve got in the black vastness.

What will we make of it?

We writers can help as illuminators and guides.


Monday, February 19, 2018

Taking miracles for granted

     Miracles are all around us every day, yet we take them only as our due.

     Consider glass.  What would our lives be like without this miraculous stuff?  It’s everywhere and it’s essential to the quality of our lives.  It’s made by melting simple sand, one of the most abundant materials on our planet, yet it’s incredibly durable, it can withstand extreme temperatures while remaining dimensionally stable, and, fantastically, we can see through it as though it were not even there. 

     Nobody seems to know how long glass has been around, but there’s a 5,000-year-old example in a British museum.  The Indians didn’t have glass in their abodes when the Pilgrims arrived in America wearing too many clothes, but Virginia settlers built a glass factory in the early 1600s and started putting rippled windows in their buildings.  Many of those windows still survive and serve.

     Without glass our homes would be dark boxes.  It lets in natural light and gives us expansive views while serving as a barrier to the elements.  Without glass, vehicles as we know them would never have been built, Edison would never have been able to invent the light bulb, and we would not have developed clear mirrors that let us see ourselves as others do.  Because of its miraculous optical qualities—its ability to bend light—glass can be fashioned into prisms that spread light into its colorful spectrum, and it can be made into lenses that help near- or far-sighted people see with great resolution.  It gives us cameras that allow us to faithfully capture still and moving images.  It can be crafted into precision mirrors and lenses that bring distant objects close through binoculars, and that even let us peer far out across deep time into the vastness of the Universe through telescopes.

     Glass is only one among many daily miracles that greatly enrich our lives, but I think it deserves special recognition.

     I propose a National Glass Day on which we should all raise a glass in toast to this magical material.