For centuries, I think most people thought Earth was alone in the universe, at least when it came to planets. It was inevitable that people would decide that they wanted to know more about the numerous stars, the moon, and the sun. Once the telescope was invented, with the earliest workings towards the design of the refracting telescope being made by German-Dutch lensmaker Hans Lippershey in 1608, people, or at least a few people, were able to see the things that really existed beyond Earth’s atmosphere. I can only imagine the shock as the first viewing proclaimed, quite loudly, that we were not alone in the universe…not even in the realm of planets, not to mention galaxies.
Thinking about the vastness of the universe has a tendency to make you feel very small, and I don’t suppose many people in the 1600s were very comfortable with that. These days the thought of the other planets in our galaxy doesn’t really bother us, and in fact it seems completely normal to us. As my husband, Bob and I have been going on our nightly walks, I have been watching the movement of several planets…namely Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn. Just the thought of these huge, star-like celestial bodies, at least to the naked eye, makes me think about how amazing God’s creation is. I have been able to picture in my mind, how these planets look in the universe, and now, the idea that they are stars seems absurd. Of course, my own “revelation” of that fact came centuries after the great men of science figured that fact out, and of course, that “revelation”didn’t creep into my mind today, but was rather taught to me over the years of my schooling. Still, sometimes while you know something is a fact, the enormity of it takes much longer to fully register in your head. That is the way i feel about it,after a fashion anyway…as if suddenly, I can almost see the planets with the naked eye.
It makes me wonder how the various scientists, who discovered each of the planets in our galaxy, felt the first time the telescope found a planet, especially a new one…or shall I say, one that was never discovered before that moment. With that thought running around in my head, I learned that on September 23, 1846, German astronomer Johann Gottfried Galle discovers the planet Neptune at the Berlin Observatory. We all now know Neptune as the eight planet in our solar system, and because it was the eighth, it was further out in space than the seven that were discovered before it. I can only imagine the excitement he felt in that moment. He was looking upon something no other human being had seen before. I don’t know if he had any concept of how big the planet was in comparison to Earth, but we now know that Neptune is the eighth and farthest known planet from the Sun in the Solar System, because Pluto was later found and then after years as a planet, discounted as a planet and named a dwarf planet. In the Solar System Neptune is the fourth-largest planet by diameter, the third-most-massive planet, and the densest giant planet. Neptune is 17 times the mass of Earth. At that size, I would say that Neptune’s discovery was by no means a small thing.
Today’s solar eclipse will not be the first one I have ever seen, but it will be the first total solar eclipse I have ever seen. I most clearly recall the July 10, 1972 eclipse. It was a warm sunny day, and downtown Casper, Wyoming had set up a viewing telescope for those who wanted to have a look. Casper was not in the path of totality, so crowds were not an issue like they are this time. I find myself somewhat stunned that Casper is one of the best sites to view today’s eclipse. Casper isn’t usually a big tourist attraction, but today, we have found ourselves at the center of all the hoopla.
I’ve watched a movie about viewing a total eclipse, and people come away feeling…somehow changed after viewing one. My mind can’t seem to wrap itself around how that could happen, but I guess I’ll see how I feel afterward. For me, I think that if I feel a change it will be more because I think that the signs of the sky were placed there by God, to speak to His people. Many people may think that’s crazy, but it’s no more strange than to think that it’s accidental. The whole universe was created by God, so why wouldn’t He plan it’s every move.
So, the eclipse is over now, and I must say that the moments in totality were…amazing. The color of the atmosphere around us was not like the typical, dusk that everyone said to expect. It was different than that somehow. My son-in-law, Kevin Petersen thought so too. While we were waiting for totality, I tried to look at the things everyone said to watch for, and probably the most surprising to me was the eclipse shadows. I don’t know what I thought it would look like, but when I saw it, I startled my daughter, Corrie Petersen; my son-in-law, Kevin; and my husband, Bob Schulenberg. I shouted, “Look!! It’s the eclipse shadows!!” They are actually called Solar Eclipse Crescent Shadows. Well, my family thought I saw a snake or something, hahaha!! We also noticed, as expected, that the birds started their evening song ritual, preparing to go to sleep for the night. We might have heard crickets, but the people around us set off fireworks at that time, so we couldn’t hear that. We saw the sunset along the horizon, and afterward we had to laugh, because we all forgot to look for the stars. I caught a very faint glimpse of them in a picture I took.
Totality was an amazing experience, but I like most people think that 2 minutes and 26 seconds is a very short time. You simply don’t have time to see everything that there was to see. The cool air was, in reality, a welcome change from the heat we had been sitting in, but like the rest of the eclipse, it didn’t last very long. With the return of the sun, came the warmth of the sun again. Totality was over, and yes, maybe I was changed. I had experienced a total eclipse, and it was amazing. It was something I will never forget.
Over the years, I have watched my niece, Jenny Spethman grow in so many ways. Of course, I’ve seen her grow from a little girl into a teenager, adult, wife, and mother, but those are simply the normal changes we all go through in life. Jenny has changed in so many other, more important ways though. Growth can take on very different and complicated forms, but the greatest growth is in the area of the spiritual, and it is in that area that I find Jenny to have almost literally exploded. I have watched her faith in God grow by leaps and bounds.
Life has not always been easy for Jenny. She has had her share of heartaches, as those who know her can attest, but through it all, she and her husband, Steve Spethman have never faltered on one thing…their faith in God. When people lose a child, often the first thing that is questioned is to ask God why He did this, but not Jenny and Steve. They knew that this was not God. And they then doubled their focus on God’s word, and his promise that they will see their baby girl, Laila in Heaven, and until then, she is in the arms of Jesus and enjoying time with family who have also gone on to Heaven. Jenny and Steve have been blessed with their three sons, Xander, Zack, and Isaac, as well as their daughters, Laila, and now Aleesia, who is almost 2½ years old. Every day is viewed as a blessing beyond measure, even though they miss Laila terribly.
I had really never thought of Jenny as a morning person, although I don’t know why, but these days, at least, she cherishes the early morning hours, as a time to see God’s great sunrises and reflect on His teachings and promises to her. She also loves to see the moon and stars, again because she knows that God has blessed her life with such enormous beauty. I think that it is in these quiet moments of reflection, often before her family wakes up, that Jenny has grown closer and closer to God. She knows that He is not only her Father, Lord, and Saviour, but in all reality, her Daddy and friend. A friend that sticks closer that all others, and no matter what life brings her.
Jenny has grown in so many ways, and each area of growth has made her a more and more beautiful person, both inside and out. I am so proud of her and all that she has become. I look forward to the time to come when I will see her grow even more, especially in her walk with the Lord. Today is Jenny’s birthday. You are an amazing woman, and one I am proud to call my niece. Happy birthday Jenny!! Have a great day!! We love you!!
Yesterday, while Bob and I were on a walk, I heard a small plane overhead. Both Bob and I looked up and searched the sky until we found it. It occurred to me that it doesn’t matter if it is a bird, a small plane, a jet, or especially a hot air balloon, we always look up. It’s funny, because we hear cars, kids, dogs, trains, and even music around us all the time, but we don’t always look. We might look if the car or motorcycle is really loud, but just as often, it makes no difference to us. We aren’t really very interested.
I don’t think that it is because the things we see and hear on the ground are any more common than the things we see and hear in the sky are. Maybe we just feel the freedom of the air, when we watch something soaring across the sky. I personally love to fly, and I would love to ride in a hot air balloon too. Birds fascinate me …especially the pigeons that circle the downtown Casper area. When I feel like I am tied down with responsibility, all it takes it to sit and watch the birds awhile, and I feel better. The birds lift some of the weight of responsibility and I feel lighter. Now I can’t say for sure that feeling free is the reason that we look up when we hear a noise in the sky, but it could be one reason.
I suppose that if we lived in a big city, I would not think so much about planes in the air, since there are probably far more of them than we get in Casper, Wyoming. Still, I have to wonder if they would get excited about seeing a bunch of hot air balloons over their city, the way we do here. Or maybe it’s just me. I suppose that it is entirely possible that other people don’t look up when a plane, balloon, or bird fly over. I have been known to think a little bit differently about things, so maybe other people don’t give it a second thought. Nevertheless, I love to watch the planes fly overhead, look with wonder when a hot air balloon goes over, and even wonder where the birds are headed when I see them flying above me.
And just in case I didn’t look enough like I live in a dream world, I will tell you that I also look at the clouds. I love to see what pictures God might have painted in the sky with them. The moon and stars are also attention grabbers, because of the beauty they have been given. I like to look for satellites at night, or shooting stars, when the sky isn’t to light. The blood moon that is coming in a couple of days will be the second one this year and I am making plans to be up and watching the sky. Maybe it is just me, but I have a tendency to think that it’s not. I think a lot of people are curious about the things that happen in the sky and in space. I have a feeling that we are a bit like little kids in that way. When we hear a sound in the sky, we always look up.
Many people can’t wait for summer, so they can go camping. As kids, my sisters and I loved it. It didn’t matter if we were sleeping in a camper or on the ground, as long as Dad was willing to put another log on the fire to keep the bears away…which is what we thought would work…and it probably did no good, but we were girls…what did we know. All we cared about was that we were traveling and had no school, and we got to see new places and do fun new things. Of course, one of the things we always liked was the campfire at night. The smell of the burning wood, roasting marshmallows, looking at the stars, and just enjoying the warmth radiating from the fire, made the evening so fun and relaxing. Those were times we enjoyed so much, and times that I miss sometimes. It’s funny, because I’m not much of a camper these days, although I love to go hiking. It’s just that at night, I kind of like a nice soft bed and a room without bugs and cold air. I do still love to sit around the fire though.
Kids, especially love to be around the campfire. They want to add wood to it, stir it and everything that they are so sure is important to having a campfire. I love to watch little kids around the campfire, they just get so excited…but then which one of us isn’t a kid at heart when it comes to campfires. These days you can even buy a little fire pit to have in the back yard, so your can enjoy those fires whenever you feel like it. It’s not exactly like camping, but it gives you a little bit of that feel…or whets your appetite for summer…or at least summertime things.
Sleeping in a sleeping bag these days isn’t my favorite thing to do, but then it does remind most people of camping out. Some people love it so much that they can’t wait for summer to go camping. It is a matter of have sleeping bag, will camp. For those people, and my grand nephew, Ethan and grand niece, Aurora certainly qualify in this category, it simply doesn’t matter where you camp out. The campground, the back yard, or even Ethan’s bedroom will do, as long as you are sleeping in a sleeping bag, and not in your bed. I don’t know how much sleep Ethan and Aurora got on this little camping trip, but they definitely had a great time.