Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Nature Nerd Wednesdays

Welcome to Nature Nerd Wednesdays, your mid-week nature break to reconnect with the calming, refreshing, and inspiring effects of nature. Take a deep breath and enjoy...

Screenshot: Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, NASA-Johnson Space Center. "The Gateway to Astronaut Photography of Earth." <http://eol.jsc.nasa.gov/HDEV/

Perspective.  This lens through which we experience the world will occasionally be shaken up like an Etch-A-Sketch and its lines re-drawn; re-framing the way we see the world as a result of a particular experience.  A conversation, a thought-provoking book, a life-changing event, a stunning view from the top of a mountain... whether large or small, these experiences all have the ability to adjust our perspective to some degree.

I recently attended a family member's high school graduation.  Talk about perspective!  It's hard to believe that exactly ten years ago, I was the giddy graduate carefully making my way across the polished gym floor to the proud and thunderous cheers of a full auditorium, with the tidily-played strains of Pomp and Circumstance faintly rising and falling in the background. As I listened to the commencement speeches at this recent graduation, there was a very clear difference in perspectives between the student and the adult speakers.  The student speakers urged one another to go out there, experience life, and find yourselves.  The adult speaker had one message: consider what your legacy will be. Be kind.  The students were coming from a perspective of standing at the edge of the familiar and staring into the unknown.  The adult speaker was coming from a perspective of standing "out there" in the former unknown, looking backward at where he came from; at the events and experiences that brought him to the place where he now stood.

Well, that's all fine and good and interesting, but what does it have to do with Nature Nerd Wednesdays?  This Wednesday, I wanted to share with you something really interesting. Like the photo of Earth from one of my first Nature Nerd Wednesday posts, this week's gem can really put our home planet into stark perspective.  This is the International Space Station's HD Earth Viewing Experiment. Click on the link and you'll be transported to a live video feed of Earth, as seen by cameras mounted on the Space Station itself.

We are so used to looking at our planet from the same perspective as a newly-graduated high school student: standing with our feet planted firmly on the familiar ground of planet Earth, staring out into the infinite dark of the star-speckled heavens.  This video feed from the ISS allows us to take the perspective of the adult speaker, standing in the former unknown and looking back at where he came from. 

Our world seems infinitely large when we're standing upon it.  Viewed from above, it is brought clearly to light that our planet is limited. The ISS video feed shows the curving line of the horizon, the thin blue haze of atmosphere that is the only thing protecting us from being fried by solar radiation. Beneath cottony white clouds, the vast blue seas appear empty, but we well know they're teeming with life.  We see land comprised of muted green and dusty brown, dotted with cities here and there.  Rivers can be seen snaking across the landscape, dragging silty brown plumes into the oceans. Every single person we know is on that blue-green-white orb.  Everything we know, every experience we've ever had, is on that planet suspended in the close blackness of space. Even viewed from above, Earth looks familiar. Compact. Finite.

Screenshot: Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, NASA-Johnson Space Center. "The Gateway to Astronaut Photography of Earth." <http://eol.jsc.nasa.gov/HDEV/

This is a video of our home planet in real time. You are down there somewhere. Right now. If you time it just right, you can even wave to yourself as the Space Station passes overhead... it is almost mind-boggling.  These new and unfamiliar perspectives allow us to experience a sense of wonderment and gratitude as we look back on the familiar from an entirely different viewpoint.

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