[Tweeters] Bird Brain Astronomy

Jeff Gibson gibsondesign at msn.com
Thu Nov 27 08:44:30 PST 2014

Several years ago, on a cloudy Everett night, I was inspired to write this poem:
The lens of the sky is coveredby clouds, like a cataracttwentythousandfeetthick.
Yup, the weather here in my native land can really put the lens-cap on one's telescope. Several years after writing my poem, I created The Center For Faith-based Astronomy, down at the former Anchor Pub. Our motto? "Just because you can't see it, don't mean it's not there". And our faith is surely strengthened on those long grey days and nights.
And then we are rewarded, like I was in the wee wee hours of early this morning. The cloud cover over Port Townsend had developed a tear in it, and the inky sky hole was full of bright shiny stars! I really am not much of an Astronomer and only know a few of the obvious constellations, but enjoy seeing stars in general. There was ol' Polaris twinkling above - it's twinkle takes about 430 years to get to Port Townsend. I ran inside the house to look up a certain constellation, and in 2 minutes the stars had all disappeared.
My interest in Invisible Astronomy may have really got its first lift- off on the morning of February 26 1979, the year of the last total Solar Eclipse visible from around here. If you were around back then you may remember the excitement around the region, as watchers from here and all over were squirreling around all over, scrambling to find a spot with clear skies. Goldendale Wa, was one of those pilgrimage spots (writer Annie Dillard managed to be there, and wrote a story about it, "Total Eclipse").
My sister was one of those pilgrims, and I think I got an invite to go along, but being the shy grump I am, was not inclined to any astronomy circus event. So I stayed home. Home at that point was a basement apartment perched on the edge of Pigeon Hill in West Seattle.The place overlooked a big funky urban greenbelt, and on that mild, but clouded-in morning, the birds were really singing away: Song Sparrows, Robins, Wrens, etc. - a pretty good chorus going at Eclipse time.
And as the hidden Eclipse was happening, and the darkness came, the birds all stopped singing - quite suddenly. The solar powered switch in their little bird brains just turned off, apparently. It was a sort of eerie, yet wonderful thing to hear. Silence. Soon, as the moon moved on by, the birds burst into song again - yay! So I didn't see an Eclipse, but did hear one.
Jeff Gibsonlistening to the Moon and Stars, inWherever Wa

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