De Occulta Philosophia
By Charles Simic
Your humble servant
Into your occult ways.
Out of the late summer sky,
Its deepening quiet,
You brought me a summons,
A small share in some large
And obscure knowledge.
Tell me something of your study
Of lengthening shadows,
The blazing windowpanes
Where the soul is turned into light—
Or don’t just now.
You have the air of someone
Who prefers to dwell in solitude,
The one who enters, with gravity
Of mien and imposing severity,
A room suddenly rich in enigmas.
Oh supreme unknowable,
The seemingly inviolable reserve
Of your stratagems
Makes me quake at the thought
Of you finding me thus
Seated in a shadowy back room
At the edge of a village
Bloodied by the setting sun,
To tell me so much
To tell me absolutely nothing.
Because it was a nearly-90-degree Tuesday and because we were in the mood for it after the George Lucas tribute on Monday night, I took the kids to the Udvar-Hazy Center of the National Air and Space Museum near Dulles Airport. Unlike the last time we were there over winter break, the vast hangars were nearly empty, so we were able to go up all the ramps and stairs for more interesting views of the planes and the orbital shuttle without waiting in lines and we took the elevator to the top two floors for views of the airport runways and the air traffic control exhibit. I was a space geek long before I was a ship geek, and getting to stand under the Enterprise for as long as I wanted was bliss. Plus my kids are interested and chatty about astronomy and some planes -- am debating whether I could show them The Aviator the way I showed them Gladiator and The Matrix, with my finger on the fast-forward button for the non-PG parts -- so it's a lot of fun to go with them to museums like this.
From the upper ramp, an Air France Concorde retired in 2003 and a Boeing 307 Stratoliner built circa 1938 and restored in 2001. The Clipper Flying Cloud flew for PanAm, but Howard Hughes had one of these silver beauties modified for his personal use at TWA. I posted photos of her before too, here.
Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird and P-40E Warhawk "Lope's Hope" in the main hangar. My son wanted to know whether the Air Force got the idea for the Blackbird from Star Wars or The X-Men.
Boeing B-29 Superfortress Enola Gay, named after the mother of its first commander, Colonel Paul Tibbets; first bomber to house her crew in a pressurized compartment, first bomber to drop an atomic bomb in combat. She's one of the prettiest planes at Udvar-Hazy. It's hard to look at her, and hard not to.
Travel Air D4D Pepsi Skywriter, one of more than a thousand open-cockpit biplanes built between 1925 and 1930, combining the fun of barnstorming, the utility of crop dusting and the value of advertising.
One of Amelia Earhart's flight suits. (You can see her Lockheed Vega at the main Smithsonian Air and Space Museum here.) I have no words for how much it excites me to see anything that actually touched Earhart...
...like these. Oh but I wish they had the hair. I know it is ridiculous to fetishize what she had rather than who she was, but I'm like that and she is so much more worthy of that kind of adoration than movie stars anyway.
On the way home we were talking about Apollo 13, which had come up in conversation while looking at rockets, and about Spaceballs since the boys were extremely amused by the clip shown during the Lucas tribute, and I remembered that I had $25 in gift cards that had been sitting in my purse since we got them for Christmas from various relatives, so we stopped at Blockbuster and got both those films. Spaceballs was this evening's selection by popular acclaim: it was about as stupid as I remembered (my favorite Mel Brooks movies are Blazing Saddles, High Anxiety and Young Frankenstein, with To Be Or Not To Be getting a boost up because of Bancroft and Robin Hood: Men in Tights winning bonus points for its cast, so Spaceballs is pretty far down there). My kids found it utterly hysterical and I am going to be hearing, "Your schwartz is as big as mine!" for the rest of the week.
I forgot to mention my squee at seeing Mark, Carrie and Harrison in a group hug and Harrison's "I love you," and earlier I watched a Shatner interview conducted outside the Kodak Theater before the AFI tribute in which he was asked who was cooler, Captain Kirk or Han Solo, and he said "Han Solo is cooler than Nimoy but no one is cooler than Captain Kirk!" I also watched a long Threshold preview, which made me wail because the pilot actually looks good...I really like Carla Gugino and Brent Spiner, but I don't want to watch a Braga show! Hope everyone has had a lovely Litha/Midsummer/solstice/longest or shortest day of the year.