It’s a Museum like many others and I wander around checking
stuff out. There is an exhibit on Maps at the moment. Someone’s had the idea of
including one room with images from Hubble.
I’ve seen most of these before but they’re pretty spectacular
nonetheless, particularly the large, super-high definition prints they’ve put
up here. The Eagle Nebula, the Crab Nebula, the Cat’s Eye Nebula, the Sombrero Galaxy. There’s still
no agreed upon explanation for the expanding fireball of V838 Monocerotis.
One of the images I haven’t seen before is of the Carina
Nebula. The print is a big one, taking up almost a whole wall. I sit and look
for a long time. What to me seems like a long time. The light from the galaxies
in the Hubble Ultra Deep Field just next to me took 13 billion years to reach
us. That’s as far away in time and space as we’ve seen. Almost as old as the
universe. The cosmologists didn’t think they’d see much in that tiny, boring,
empty patch of space but they let the light trickle in for days, photon by photon. That’s
The Carina Nebula is incredible. I don’t have the words and
the image is better. There are billows and clouds and rivers, the birth and
life and death of stars, a nuclear conflagration. You project your own thoughts
into an image like this and it projects itself into you. Am I particularly
twisted or is that a skull I see in the left hand side of the image? Isn’t
there another face in the middle there?
I must have been sat there a good while - the Security Trog
starts looking at me funny. I guess he thinks I’m eyeing up the kids wandering
around the exhibit. Am I old enough to be considered a potential paedo now?
Dark days. There are a lot of kids around. Their expressions are too cool. One takes a look at the pictures, totters over to the
visitors' book, spends a long time carefully writing (on tip-toes), takes another look around
and runs off. I get up and look at the book.
This is asome!
I wish I could see
Me too. Strange thing to say. Maybe this kid has
hypnopompic visions - swirlings of dream and reality seen at the time of
waking, a reworking of images seen in the past and in the imagination.
The visitors' book is full of AWESOME and COOL! and AMA-ZING
and WOW. There’s a crucifix and a Star of David. In neat, flowing Arabic script
someone has transcribed, with translation the first Quranic verses :
Read! In the Name of your Lord
who created. Who created man from a clot of blood. Read!
This cabinet is labelled ‘Sword Fittings : Death and the
Passing of the Seasons.’ Images and words from classical Japanese poetry such
as the Kokinshu and the Tales of Ise adorn the scabbards, handles and
grip-guards of Samurai swords.
You cherry blossoms,
I too would like to scatter,
for human beings
are but dismal spectacles
once their brief blossoming is done
The spring cherry blossoms are apparently uncommon as images
in this type of piece. Given the context, it’s autumnal images that abound.
Dying grasses, fading flowers, migrating geese.
If in exchange for meeting you,
is death so great a price to pay?
The swords and fittings are beautiful. Slashy slashy. Enough museum. Time to find a pub.
The Walters Art Museum, Baltimore, Maryland : “Mapping the Cosmos”
Image of the Carina Nebula from Hubblesite here