Today was a play day with Stacy, a cousin who I love more like a brother, if you want to know the truth. We went to PARI (Pisgah Astronomical Research Institute), a delightfully marvelous, accessible, educational facility tucked away in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains. We ran our hands along a tire that once stood between the earth and one of the space shuttles, and when we saw the ridiculously thin tread, Stace said “No wonder the shuttle needed a parachute to stop it.” We looked at satellites, one adorned with a smiley face painted on during the mid 1960s just to say to the Russians “We see you.” (The Russians, we were told, stamped out dirty words in the snow by way of response.) We marveled at the variety of meteorites on display and laughed out loud at the hallway lined with spectacular photos of the moon, an event our granddaddy died believing was television hoakery.

John the Tour Guide showed us all sorts of computers, one of which that’s tracking the earth’s drifting and shifting magnetic something-or-other. It kinda’ alarmed me, really, so I asked him about the implications of that change, and I don’t know if he understood my question or not, but I know for certain that I didn’t understand his answer. John in the Control Booth told us about watching quasars and blips and sounds that are so far away, it makes my head hurt to think about it. (Next time I’m going to ask him if he’s looking into our past or into our future.)

Then they gave us a map, circled some spots they thought we might enjoy, and bid us farewell. We went straightaway to the new Observation Deck where the view was quieting and the quiet was deafening. “Though I don’t know exactly how,” Stacy said as we were leaving, “my life will be better for having been here.”

To which I said simply: Amen.