Valentine’s day with all its flowers, cards and a rainbow of romance, is over, and I am thinking of old things. Not antiques, old letters or works of art and literature but things that are really, really old. Things that never get a mention in a love letter or a valentine but which give my imagination a solid workout.
Take turtles, for instance. Imagine—these stoic creatures have been around for 215,000,000 years (making them truly old) and have outlasted upheavals in this earth of ours and seen strange creatures flourish for a while before making way for the next wave of life. Look at a turtle’s face and see in those wise old eyes the mystery of millennia about which we can only theorize.Civilizations have risen and crumbled, but the turtle continues to swim back to shores of its own hatching in order to lay its eggs and continue its humble dynasty. If it could recount the history of its species, what would it tell us? What would be its advice?
Then, there are trees. Haven’t you ever stood beneath one of those beautiful old oaks and wondered what tales it could tell? Or stared up at soaring Redwoods and tried to picture the awe felt by settlers who left crowded, polluted cities of Europe to seek a new world? I know that when we were introduced to the 1,700 year old olive tree in Umbria last year, I felt a rush of history. Pomp and panoply, plots, warfare and peace must have passed under this tree. The olive tree was silent, but my own imagination was racing.
And then there is space… great, profound and mysterious. Distant stars whose light takes centuries to reach the earth glow in that vast darkness. Perhaps they have already gone nova or perhaps the galaxy in which they burn may have been churned into a black hole. I will never know.
Science, though is remarkable. The other day we watched as the rings of Saturn spread across our TV screen. In front of my eyes those glittering shards of ice whirled about that great gas giant 890,700,000 miles away from the sun, and I held my breath with wonder and breathless delight. Saturn has 62 moons, some recently discovered by the Cassini Probe. Among that plethora of satellites is Rhea with a possible faint ring of its own, and Titan which has an atmosphere made of liquid methane gas. Can you imagine skies that glow green and where raindrops fall very slowly? That is the scientists’ idea of Titan . But the moon that interests me most is a malformed moon that is thought to be composed of the detritus left over when our universe was formed.
Whirling in dark space
Exploding out of chaos
To glow in the sky.
It’s hard to grasp, hard even to imagine, but scientist theorize that ancient space matter came drifting from the heart of deepest space and that it was caught in Saturn’s gravitational pull. Will man someday set foot on this bit of rock and plumb its secrets?
Until that day there is imagination. Perhaps my colleagues who are science fiction writers or painters of the great cosmos have already begun to write or paint or sew together stories which center around dramas we can never hope to see. Perhaps trees have inspired poets and illustrators and storytellers to set down their vision. And the turtle… surely its journey from millennia past to the present day is worthy of note in song or word or art!
And the fact that these ancient things stir us to create has to be worth a lot of valentines.