It's strange, the things that inspire one to write. It's 11:40pm and a moment ago I was sleepy, but now I'm typing.
I don't think, "Oh hell, it's been a while since I wrote something so I should". I don't manufacture events to amuse or inform. I'm all about doing nothing, usually, and then...well, this...(listen. I'll tell you what it is at the end, and maybe you'll be like me. Captivated.)
A few days ago, Sabina knocked on the door and asked if I'd accompany her up Vogel again. Vogel, if you recall, is the ski resort where the cows spend their summer. It's a long plod up and a very long plod down. One of Igor and Sabina's cows went missing. They check on them regularly and there should be 11. Now there were only 10. Mavrica (pronounced Mawritsa, meaning Rainbow) was not there. Gone. The next morning Sabina and I went to look for her.
Vogel is vast, in cow terms, and the only areas that dont have a welter of trees is where skiers wouldn't like them. Otherwise, it's a vast expanse of tree-filled mountains. It's also very (and I mean VERY) hot at the moment. Mavrica had been gone three days, maybe a week. Cows drink a lot and there are no rivers up there, just plenty of troughs near where they should be.
And there were reports of a cow being killed by a bear some miles away.
I felt sorry for Mavrica. I wouldn't want to be lost and thirsty up a mountain, with or without a bell round my neck. We split up and called her name. I checked dangerous pits in the rock, headed for grassy breaks in the trees, tried to imagine where a cow might go.
When I realised that Vogel is a lot bigger than I ever imagined, I sat down and decided to do something strange. Strange for me, that is. I decided to listen.
I tend to use my eyes for most stuff. I'd forgotten about hearing. With my eyes closed I listened to the world around me. Perhaps I'd hear her bell, or a forlorn moo. Perhaps, sadly, I might hear a swarm of flies. Listening as an active process rather than a passive one is quite revealing, as though there are two worlds and I only ever bother with one.
I don't know why this came as a surprise, because I write about an invisible world all the time. I continually mention how I came here because of my brother and mountains, but discovered another place entirely, consisting of help, friendship, respect for others and quality of life. I came here for one reason, and found another quite by accident. This is the beauty of living in a place, rather than visiting it. There are two worlds, and visitors, like a deaf man up Vogel, don't experience the other.
It's the little things that surprise you, isn't it? The human things.
Last night I was watching stuff about Pluto. I'm somewhat nerdy when it comes to space, physics, that sort of thing. I've been following New Horizons for months, clicking on the fuzzy images of Pluto and its major moon Charon from when New Horizons was still a gazzillion miles away. Now we know that Pluto has a heart.
On the show a planetary scientist spoke with enormous enthusiasm about unexpected geological features. I'm not usually blown away by unexpected geological features (geology, nah. Rockets, yes) but there was something about the animated scientist that made me sad. Speaking about the farthest planet (or not) from earth, she reminded me of my friend Cassandra back in America. She reminded me so much of her, that I went to the computer and wrote to Cassandra. I missed her. Just then, she was a friend who was too far away.
Another small slice of humanity came from the show. Clide Tombaugh, the discoverer of Pluto, is sadly no longer with us. But some of his ashes are on New Horizons. I was pleased for him. Or are those ashes lost out there in the cold, never to be home again?
And where is Mavrica the cow?
I now know. Sabina phoned later in the day to say she had turned up. The plucky bovine had walked all the way back down the mountain and arrived in the small village of Polje. It's a long way. Pluto-far, if you're a cow.
I am amazed by what scientists (and cows) are capable of. For Tombaugh to have spotted a tiny dark rock 3.5 billion miles from earth was a pretty incredible feat in the first place. To actually send a spacecraft there was (and I quote from the show) the equivalent of throwing a ball across the Atlantic right into the hand of someone on the other side. We get pictures too. Lots of them.
But here's the thing. Pluto has a heart. Charon, its major moon, has a sort of gully thing. We can see them in the pictures. But like sensory overload, I look at them and say wow, and then get instantly, I don't know, un-wowed. I've seen rocks on Mars, clouds on Jupiter, rings on Saturn in obscene detail. I know it's incredible, but how many rocks do we want to see? Sometimes you have to close your eyes and imagine. You have to listen for a cow bell, a plaintive moo, a buzz of flies. Listening seems to be far more human than looking.
So I'm writing this, post Pluto pictures, post lost and found cow, post sadness for a lost distant friend, to say I've discovered what closing your eyes and listening can do for you. It brings another world right up close.
That audio file? I'll tell you what it is.
Once upon a time, a rocket set off toward Saturn. It wasn't too interested in Saturn; it went to its moon, Titan. Titan is big. Titan is so big, it has a dense atmosphere pretty much like ours. So they sent in a probe. Huygens. It dropped into the atmosphere with parachutes and took hours to reach the ground. On its way down, the air whooshed past, and a little microphone recorded it. That's what the sound is. It's air blowing past a microphone. On a moon of Saturn.
Give me a million photos of rocks, and nothing will get me closer to Titan than the sound of the wind. It gives me chills.
[ps...Have you tried the Armchair Detective Challenge yet?]
Slovenia, writing, other things