Looking Up

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Before we start, let me preface this by saying looking up isn’t a message about optimism.  Those who know me have certainly never accused me of being optimistic.   Is it about situational awareness?  Well, kind of.  Looking up is about seeing what’s around you.

I was struck by this while on a walk through the park and along the river trail the other morning.   I pass so many walkers, runners and cyclists with head’s down, looking at the ground.  Some say hello, but most pass right on by with not so much as a word.   Do they see me?  Do they see what’s around them?

I walk looking up.  Not straight forward.  Not at the ground in front of me.  I look up.  Why?  Well, on this day in particular we had clouds, wonderful clouds.  Crepuscular rays, a result of clouds that obscured the sun.  They bore an incredible iridescence, mostly greens and reds.   As the clouds pass by and the sun shone through, the rays and colors subsided, that is until the next bands of clouds brought more.

We so seldom get interesting weather here in Southern California.  Don’t get me wrong.  Our weather is delightful.   You won’t hear me complain about 70 degree temperatures and fair weather in the dead of winter.  My point is this.  There is a myriad of things around you.  If for no other reason, one should look up to have some situation awareness for safety.  However, the world is a fascinating place.  Those adept on the observational pursuits know this all too well.

Amateur astronomers are a great example.  I’ve been to so many astronomy events and conferences around the world and if it ends once the sun has set, an interesting phenomenon occurs.  As the patrons exit the convention center or conference hall, they pour onto the street on their way to locate whatever mode of transport that arrived in.  But as soon as they can a view of the sky, they all look up.  Sometimes it’s a long look.  Sometimes it’s just a glance, but they all look.    I’ve watched this as astronomy clubs meetings and astronomy classes too.   What are they looking for?  They’re just taking a second to see if there is anything interesting.  They note the positions of the stars, presence of the Moon or planets, and note the weather.

Birders do it too.   What’s that bird soaring over there?  What’s the sound in the tree?   Once you developed an ear, you’d be shocked by how many birds one can identify by ear alone.

My wife and taught this to my son at an early age.  While out and about he can spy tarantula hawks, butterflies, darners and damsel flies, lizards and snakes, and of course, birds.    Most folks have no idea how many interesting things are just outside their own backyard.

In my county alone, most have seen only a small fraction of the 330-plus bird species that migrate through in a given year or the mammals and reptiles one can see if they get out and look.    When the sun goes down, you can still look skyward for astronomical phenomena, satellite fly-by’s and the glint from the highly polished antenna and solar panels.

The world is a terribly fascinating place.   Do yourself a favor.  Instead of watching that patch of ground 5 feet in front of you, try looking up.  You may be surprised what you see.

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About Author

Chris Morrison

Chris is an avid amateur astronomer, birder, photographer and general nature and science nut. He was a Vice President at a major telescope manufacturer, where he was directly involved in product development and testing for much of his 15 year tenure. His passion for all things science and nature is what led him to found localmeridian.com, an online outlet for his desire to share his love of the natural world.

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