Saturday, June 24, 2006
From Roswell, I drove west through the Rio Hondo valley. I stopped in Capitan to pay my respects at the real Smokey Bear gravesite. (See photo above.) He was rescued there in 1950 and at one time enjoyed 98% recognition among all American children in his mission to spread wildfire prevention. I noted that, fittingly, that the Capitan Mountains were closed due to extreme fire hazard conditions.
I drove through the historic town of Lincoln City, last stand of Billy the Kid, and then on to Carrizozo, known for its cherry orchards. I purchased some cherries at a roadside fruit stand in Carrizozo; they were absolutely the best I’ve ever eaten. In fact, I nearly drove 40 miles out of my way on the return trip to buy some more.
I made it all the way to the Very Large Array west of Socorro before sunset. Self-guided tours are possible at the V.L.A. and I highly recommend treating yourself to one. It is possible to get right up next to one of the 27 radio antennas that, collectively, form a monstrous 36-kilometer single antenna. Each single antenna has an 82-foot diameter and could hold a 5,200 square foot house.
At the end of my tour, I stood out in the open field contemplating the vastness of space. First, was the visual largeness of the Magdalena field surrounding on all sides by distant mountains. This perspective accentuates the huge sky and reminded me of the big sky of Montana. From there, my mind tried to comprehend this big ball we call Earth and its place within our solar system, our galaxy and its place within ever larger spinning galaxies within galaxies. I turned my contemplation inward to the molecular structure of my own body. Microscopic cells, turning like miniature galaxies inside of me. A hologram of the external, tiny galaxies within galaxies. The micro. The macro. Infinitely large. Infinitely small. All interconnected and reflective of the other.
I flipped my awareness back and forth, but had to finally stop because I became physically nauseated with dizziness.
I slept the night of my turning 40 at 7,200’ atop the Continental Divide. I toasted the occasion with cherry cider flavored tequila (drunk from my newly acquired alien shot glass) and feasted on cinnamon frosted Pop Tarts.
P.S. Had a wonderful time last night with about 20 friends at the zoo concert and my home for dessert to celebrate my birthday.