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John Andersen: Sometimes, the answer is right out your back door

John Andersen: Sometimes, the answer is right out your back door

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When something shows up for the first time in 6,800 years, it is best to go out and see it.

So out into the evening I went in search of Comet Neowise. On 40th Avenue I thought this would not be an easy thing to do. So taking my binoculars in hand or rather into the truck, I went down the road and around the corner to the Peck Farm on 120th Street in Lake Hallie.

The Peck Farm offers an unobstructed view of the sky in all directions. Of course I did not pull into the driveway at the farm itself but I went down the road a bit to a field where 120th Street crosses over Hwy. 29.

I go there about twice a year to see the planet Mercury. Mercury, the closest planet to the sun, is visible only about twice a year. Best months for viewing Mercury are in the dawn sky in late November, and in the evening sky in early February.

So in pursuit of the comet, I got out of the truck and using my binoculars I checked under the Constellation the Big Dipper. I could not find it so I waited for a while until the sky darkened.

I had two people stop on the road. The first asked what I was doing, so informed him that I was looking for the comet. He thought that was cool and drove off after I assured him that I was all right.

The sky had darkened more so once again I looked under the Big Dipper. I found it. It was fuzzy but the sky was pretty clear. The comet looked like a snowball with a tail. Pretty neat I thought.

A second car stopped and asked what I was doing. I told him. He asked if he could take a look. So using the roof on the Peck’s Shed as an anchor point and I doing a bit of coaching, he found it. He thought it was really cool but not like the pictures he had seen.

After telling me thanks, he drove off. I thought about what he said. “It was not like the pictures he had seen,” an excellent point.

Anyone seeking the comet was going by the pictures they had seen on the news. The pictures were excellent but if you read closely they were taken using enhanced camera lenses and time exposures. The only Comet in my lifetime you could really see was Hale-Bopp in 1996. Even Halley’s Comet in 1986 was kind of a bust.

There is a line from a Halloween Story called “ Tricks! Treats! Gangway!” by Ray Bradbury. It goes like this: “As with most holidays, the getting set….. was sweeter, sadder, lovelier, than the holiday itself.”

Indeed you can speak that way of the comet itself. As I watched it that night and subsequent nights as it dimmed, moved farther away and eventually escaped me all together, I wished for its return.

I returned from Peck’s Field thinking about the comet and then had an idea. I went out on our back deck and using the Big Dipper again I looked into the sky and found the comet.

I had found something that I traveled down the road to see. The comet, it turns out, was visible from my own house. All I had to do was step outside and look.

Imagine a comet right under my nose — or rather, above my nose at my own house. Using past experience and being well intentioned, I went to Peck’s Field.

I applied my experience of the planet Mercury, which I have seen, to Comet Neowise, which I have never seen. Turns out I should have stayed home before searching elsewhere.

As much as we don’t like it, we are being tested right now. Our normal will return if we can discipline ourselves to move forward.

We cannot use our past experience as a guide; we must act in a new way. If we cannot, our sports seasons, our schools and what we call normal will drift further away from us.

Just like Comet Neowise fading back into the great universe from which it came.


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