I’m a big fan of WNYC’s RadioLab podcasts. In “Atomic Artifacts” they asked the question (paraphrased), “If there’s a cataclysmic event, what artifacts should we preserve for future generations?” For those of us who were raised in the 1960’s, our childhoods were shadowed by the very real threat of nuclear war. We were drilled to “duck and cover” under our desks if the siren sounded (as if that would help). Bunkers were designed, and lists made, of
objects to be preserved for our descendants…just in case.
I loved how this Radiolab episode landed. When our contemporaries were asked what they’d preserve, initial responses varied. Then many would add, “The photo of Earth.” NASA image AS08-14-2383 (aka Earthrise) was taken in 1968 during the Apollo 8 mission. While those who came after have seen countless photos of Earth from space, the first was hugely impactful. Even now, it says so much: we once to the moon, we live on a small gem in space, there are no borders drawn on the Earth. It’s an exclusive club that has seen our little marble of a home. Without exception, those who’ve had a first-hand view speak of the awe and understanding; we are a collective inhabiting a singular biosphere in the universe.
I had the pleasure of meeting the photographer of Earthrise, astronaut Bill Anders when I lived on Orcas Island. I was bartending at an event (Pinot Gris for him) where he and his wife, Valerie, talked about their time with NASA in the 1960’s after Bill was selected for the third group of astronauts. Each spoke about those heady and challenging days: the hopeful spaceman risking his life every time he climbed into the cockpit (and then space capsule); the compulsory roles that befell wife and children when their husband and father trained for the stars. Their combined stories wove into a fascinating tale of strength, respect, and love.
Earthrise provides the long view, the ultimate acknowledgement of what’s essential to be a resident on this planet. You’ve probably been mulling things over during this pandemic: who/what’s important that wasn’t before, who/what you’ve let go of, what’s lost that you grieve, what you’re (literally) willing to risk your life for, and what (upon further consideration) isn’t necessary—and may not return. I’ve written it before: please keep a record. This time won’t happen again in this way. By writing, video-recording, or speaking your thoughts, you’re not only providing an eyewitness account for future generations, you may also clarify your present tense perspective.
What perceptions have changed for you with COVID? Please comment in the box below.
Sending you appropriately physically distanced encouragement—and a reminder to look for all the shades of green that spring brings.