Friday, April 15, 2016


The Mick watches Finnegan

Since I had taken an antihistamine pill at bedtime, I slept hard.  But I dreamt that I was living in a university town in an apartment on a high floor, very pleasant, but then acquired another small house “on the flats”, from a woman who was an artist and moving somewhere else.  The rest of the dream was about moving my collection of art work from one house to the next as she made wall space by moving out her own paintings.  Both of us had large bright works.

You can analyze and so can I.  Maybe it’s a novel.  As I was drifting off last night I was thinking about animals and insects that move into the structures built by others, like hermit crabs.  (I identify as a hermit.)

I was woken by Finnegan and the Mick, crusted with ice, diving down my neck to get under the covers where it was warm.  The whole outdoors is a white sheet of paper: snow.  Probably gone by the time night comes again.  I had turned on the floor furnace so when I accidentally stepped on the Mick’s paw while trying to get all our breakfasts, she staggered onto the hot grill over the furnace, and after a scream of indignation, she regards me as a great traitor and has reverted to feral.

So the first mark on the paper is a burning indignation and resentment.  Finnegan, however, has no sympathy for his little devoted buddy and leaps into my arms, climbing my shoulder as usual.  By the time I went out to the garage to feed the ferals, I was conditionally forgiven, but was surprised to see that the cat hole in the garage door had been drifted over so that they had had to dig their way out.  They’ve also dug multiple hole entrances under the back shop, acting more like foxes than cats.  Since they are under a floor made of 2X12’s, I can’t get at their nests of kittens.

The Terminator Line

The limber bushes are crushed under the weight of the snow, but the trees were so far barely generating catkins so they are "bearing up".  I hadn’t gotten around to checking the tarp on the garage yesterday as I intended, so it may leak.  Everything is under plastic sheets.  Yesterday had been very pleasant.  Squibbie, who sleeps all day next to the computer like the grannie she is, got a little overheated so I cracked the window.  She rearranged herself to plant her nose in the crack.  

My mother slept like that: warm body, nose out to the weather coming in through her north window.  She didn’t trust electric blankets and, truthfully, in Portland one wasn’t usually necessary.  As a child I would wake to her adjusting our kid-bedroom windows.  They rattled unless they were wedged with half a pinching clothespin.  I'm free-associating.  That's what writers do.

For a few days I’ve been thinking about the line between day and night as it travels around and around the planet.  It is so grown into our cells that we follow the rhythm even when we can’t see it, but I’d forgotten its two exceptionally suggestive names: the terminator and also the gray line.  On this planet the atmosphere fuzzes it up enough to make an ambiguous transitional twilight zone, but on the moon it is sharp.

“A terminator is defined as the locus of points on a Moon or planet where the line through a Sun is tangent.”  I barely remember that a tangent is sort of like a perpendicular except coming out of a circle from the center.  I had not realized that in the polar regions there are times when they are entirely night or entirely day, no line between.

The Terminator not quite touching the South Pole

“The terminator path varies by time of day due to the rotation of the Earth on its axis. The terminator path also varies by time of year due to the revolution of the Earth around the sun: the plane of the terminator is nearly parallel to planes created by lines of longitude during the equinoxes, and at its maximum angle of approximately 23.5 degrees to the equator during the solstices.”

The terminator moves at approximately 1668 kilometers per hour (1036 miles per hour).”  The fastest airplanes and the satellites can overtake and cross it repeatedly, but at the poles when the planet tips to its extreme, there is no terminator.  “It is possible to walk faster than the terminator at the poles, near to the equinoxes.”  How poetic all this is!  

Amateur radio operators take advantage of conditions at the terminator (so-called "gray-line" propagation, or "grey-line" to the British) to perform long distance communications. Under good conditions, radio waves can travel along the terminator to antipodal points. This is primarily because the D layer, which absorbs high frequency signals, disappears rapidly on the dark side of the terminator line. This process is known as skywave propagation."

Mimas (left) and the Death Star (destroyed)

Mimas” is a satellite, a moon, that has two  “terminators”— one for the light from the sun and the other for the reflected light of Saturn, its planet.  The facts get entangled in Greek mythology used as a naming resource.  In this case, Mimas was a giant son of Gaia, one of the seven Titans ruled by Saturn, whose other time was Chronus (Time).  The Wikipedia entry is worth reading.  (Wiki accounts seem to stay sane so long as they aren’t addressing people.)  Some call Mimas the Death Star because it’s about the same size and shape as the totally invented figure in “Star Wars IV: a New Hope.”  Los Angeles writers love their scifi as much as their Joe Campbell.  The satellite showed up in Star Trek as well.

Today’s news cycle includes brain scans of people on LSD, which the scientists say show that the drug is able to change the process flow of the neurons.  Ordinarily they are in feedback loops with specific purposes that don’t interact loop-to-loop.  LSD temporarily erases the boundaries to let the loops communicate among themselves, allowing a reconfiguring of the separations.  The obsessions and conflicts disappear, at least for a time, setting the person free.

Now for the poem my subconscious has been working on.

Time and place are the great terminators.
I walk along the gray line
Looking for you
Hoping to walk faster than regret
So as to overtake the dawn.
Why were we antipodal 
When we seemed to have the radio
Frequency set to survive
International air flights,
But then the D layer
Disappeared in darkness.
Maybe it was the high frequency 
Of cognitive dissonance,
A snowstorm that erased the words.

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