Browsing the archives for the New Orleans tag

Orion, My Longtime Friend

Astronomy, Mythology, Science Fiction

Technical forward: All the links to pics below are from Stellarium referencing the sky tonight from my home near Houston, TX around 8pm tonight. well, except when Sirius shows up – his tail isn’t wagging and visible until about 10pm tonight. But while oriented around tonight and my home, Orion and Sirius are visible through the Fall and Winter in most of North America.

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I “discovered” Orion long before I knew who he was. I still remember it, because I was so sick as a child driving home from Thanksgiving in Houston to New Orleans and remembered pressing my face against the glass in the car to cool off. In time, I realized that the stars seemed to be keeping pace with the car. And I was comforted that as sick as i was, the stars were traveling with me. Three starts in particular I noticed, in a straight line, up-and-down, and I didn’t see anything else like them in the sky. I called them “family” and watched them racing over the ground to keep up with the car. In time. I noticed a pair of stars – one on each side – of my new star-fiends, Family. I think I named them Peace and Hope. Click on the pic/links below to see if you can spot them here:

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Eventually, I learned about constellations and stars and fell in love with Astronomy. I found star charts that showed that Orion was the name of those stars together, and that what I called Family, was actually Orion’s Belt. Orion has been a friend ever since, because I see him so easily in the Fall. About 9pm in November, he is at the end of my driveway as I am getting out of the car, welcoming me home. Seeing him from the line drawings is a bit difficult, but here they are. That is not a bow in his hand, like I always thought, but rather his latest kill. His club is in his hand above his head. And his sword is on his belt (and there is a special jewel there).

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It turns out that Orion has quite a past, even before I discovered him and his belt. The great hunter to the greeks was said by some to be the son of Poseidon, and came to desire Merope. Her father gave him a task of removing every dangerous animal from the island, and though he completed the task, her father would create rumors of wolves still out there to keep him from Merope. One night, Orion and Merope got together, and in retaliation for not waiting for his blessing, her father blinded Orion while asleep.

Now Merope was one of the seven Pleiades, the Sailing Sisters, and they together lead Orion to help. Eventually Dawn (Eos) and her light returned him to sight. But they say that Merope in the meantime had married a mortal her father approved of, and this is why only six of Pleides can ever be seen in the sky when dawn first shows her light. Eos was smitten with Orion, and they spent a long time together. But you know those gods…

But all was not well with the Gods and Orion. The great hunter eventually started going off on hunting trips with Artemis, the red-headed goddess of the hunt and the moon – she apparently so enjoyed his company that she started to skip her nights of lighting the world. And after boasting he could hunt every species to exinction, Mother Earth took matters in her own hands and sent a giant scorpion (Scorpius) to kill him. But Apollo, Artemis’s brother got him first, tricking Artemis to shoot a far off target bobbing in the ocean (who he knew was Orion, but told her he was someone that attacked her priestesses), and Artemis grabbed her bow and put three arrows in Orion before realizing who he was. When she saw what she had done, she rushed to Orion and made him immortal, now placing him in the stars to continue the hunting he loved – she even sent him his dog, Sirius for company.

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One last bit of Orion coolness for now…. Those two bright stars opposite one another across the belt of Orion? They are Betelgeuse, the home of a certain hoopy frood, and Rigel the star where Harry Mudd and his women were, and on a different planet in the system, the one where McCoy hooked up with a couple of chorus girls. And if we look, Betelgeuse is Orion’s shoulder, which answers that question of where exactly Roy Batty, Rutger Hauer’s Character from Blade Runner, was speaking of when he said he had, “seen things you people wouldn’t believe, attacked ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion.”

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Home in New Orleans for Thanksgiving

family, New Orleans

Today is my first day in New Orleans in 16 years. I grew up here. All of those milestone events in growing up happened here. Where I learned to ride a bike, where I first spent the night away from home, where I went to school, where I had my first kiss, where other firsts occurred as well; all of these places were destroyed by Katrina last year.

My brother still lives here and my children and I came to visit for Thanksgiving holiday. I came also to heal. The news outside of here does not do it justice – it feels like a post-apocalyptic, science-fiction story. I grew up and went to school in the part of the city known as Lakeview. It was three blocks from one of the failed levees, and the data at the time shows the water was 22 feet above street level when it covered my childhood’s home. All of the plants are dead from being underwater so long, except for some of the trees – and I did see some birds.

I’m told this is the cleaned up version. This is after the boats that were still in the streets a few months ago were picked up. This is after power is restored and downed power poles are picked up, and the trees fallen into the houses have been removed.

My house was open, no front glass remains – either from the pressure of the flood water or the efforts of the looters. There was nothing left inside. As a child, I hid a time capsule with doubloons from parades and notes in a baggie inside of a wall and hoped to recover it. I got there as the light was failing but it seemed that all of those walls have been removed and only the framing remains.

The image of the day is a cross from the steeple of a catholic church and school I attended – it was visible from my front yard and the bells of its carillon could be heard to keep track of the time when playing. The cross at the top of that steeple is now broken off and hanging upside down – a marker of devastation over a ruined landscape.

And yet, I am here writing this in a home that survived in Metairie, and my brother and I have talked more today than in years gone by. Thanksgiving stories of gratitude included appreciation for all the conveniences we take for granted as my brother and his girlfriend shared stories of the day they found a grocery store that had red meat, and later when one was found that had fresh produce. I was told that pizza deliveries have even started up again- so civilization must be recovering.

I saw what I feared. Every place that was home to me is gone. And yet I am also feeling good. My city is still alive. And when the turkey and feast runs out, we can even get pizza delivered. The house I am in has green grass and flowers in the garden. Where there is life there is hope. I am thankful for my brother and his hospitality and my chance to heal on this vacation.

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