Recently, Carl Sagan
has re-emerged into the news. First, someone has looped some of his statements, plus a few of Hawking's, into a YouTube video. Also, he has been unmasked as a pot smoker of the first water.
The first is still moving me to tears. It's on my heavy playlist right now, which means several times a day. The second is less interesting: somehow, I always found Cosmos a little too New Agey for someone who'd cut their PBS teeth on The Ascent of Man (perhaps Civilisation fans can top me, but I was too young), and used to fight with Mom on whether we'd see Barney Miller or The Age of Uncertainty. Really. I am a middlebrow. But at the same time, I was also quite the pot smoker, found what I see now to be an incredible sex appeal to be quite ordinary, and watched Cosmos "of course".
Now, back in the late Sixties into the early Seventies, my family had a boat. It wasn't much of a boat, the way that my stepfather wasn't much of a success or or a War Hero, but we docked it in Branford, Ct, and for a grand holiday, we took it to the North Fork of Long Island.
Nowadays, we call it The Hamptons.
Unbeknownst to me, and perhaps my parents, and to many other people, we rubbed shoulders with many people far beyond our station, and who influenced me in ways I'm still trying to unravel.
And then we sold the boat.
And then I fell in love. And He took me, via the ferry, to Port Jefferson...
When I first remembered Port Jefferson, it was like something out of H.P. Lovecraft. It was Innsmouth. Because I was a freak, it was, of course, wonderful: it had a 1930's soda fountain, and a Toy Store, where you could buy all kinds of old games, and a Library, where I fell in love with Leonardo, via a facsimile of his manuscripts....
When I re-emerged in P.J. it was...well....Disneyland. Nothing quite fit. But there was a Yarn Store, and Carmen and I went inside...
The Yarn Lady taught me how to spin with a drop spindle. It's really quite simple, spin the spindle, pinch and stretch out pieces of roving while stretching out your arms, like pulling taffy, while the yarn drops down at a right angle (it's incredibly graceful). Then wind the yarn on the spindle, re-hook the yarn on the spindle, and do it again. And again. When the spindle's full, make a new starter, cut off the old skein and start a new one. Then she sold me a pound of roving (which was about two shopping bags full), and I went off to the ferry.
The day was warm, the sea was blue, the wool was white, and I was finding myself quite taken by my little toy. Spinning wool, if you're not too mindful of it being a consistent thickness, has the mindless joy of chewing gum or playing with a yo-yo. Up, down, wind yarn, up, down, wind yarn... it's easy to see how Roman matrons kept doing it even when slaves were making the actual clothing for the house. And the fluffy roving looked like the soft clouds in the sky, which looked like the sweep of a galaxy's arms...hydrogen, carbon, and sulfur, locked in complex patterns...Up, down, wind yarn. Sagan's radiant face, Carmen's sexy body... I had no idea what I would do with all this yarn I was accruing: I vaguely remember thinking it might make fine cord for gift wrap, or I'd give or trade it to one of the Knitting Relatives.
"May I ask what you're doing?" the old lady said.
"I'm making thread." I said, feeling dreamy. Up, stretch, down, wind yarn.
"Such an archaic thing for a young person to do."
"Not really." Up, stretch, down, wind yarn. "I'm also thinking about astrophysics." Spin, up, stretch, down, wind yarn.
"You're thinking about such a cold, inhuman, thing as astrophysics while spinning yarn?"
"Can't you see, it's all the same thing?"
Garlic and sapphires in the mud
Clot the bedded axle-tree.
The trilling wire in the blood
Sings below inveterate scars
Appeasing long forgotten wars.
The dance along the artery
The circulation of the lymph
Are figured in the drift of stars
Ascend to summer in the tree
We move above the moving tree
In light upon the figured leaf
And hear upon the sodden floor
Below, the boarhound and the boar
Pursue their pattern as before
But reconciled among the stars.