Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Pancakes & Shuttles

The Methodist Church Youth Group sponsored a fundraiser yesterday evening -- a pancake supper (yesterday was Fat Tuesday, after all). The church rec hall was packed with people enjoying their pancakes at tables, and on benches along the walls. Amy and I decided to carry our supper home (Dave stayed with Lachlan and other friends)...and along the way we invited a few other folks to join us.

Dave Frum was among those who brought their pancakes to my house. After eating we adjourned into the living room so we could sit around the fire and chat (the temperature was in the 40s outside). At a quarter past seven Dave reminded us that the space shuttle and the space station would be passing over us in just a few minutes.

Donning jackets and hats we walked into my front yard. Only a sliver of the moon...and a myriad of stars...greeted us. The night sky was simply spectacular. We marveled at the age of the universe...and the vast distances we could only barely imagine. Dave reminded us that some of the stars shining brightly above us had long since died out. We were literally looking into the past.

Just then Dave pointed up toward the north. "Here comes the shuttle." Sure enough a bright dot was moving swiftly above us, traveling at 17,000 mph. We stood transfixed. Two minutes later the space station came into view, following the shuttle. For a short while both the shuttle and the space station moved across the sky, then disappeared within the shadow of the earth.

It is all so marvelous...the universe itself, a mystery so deep we can only stand in awe...and the accomplishments of our species, an incredible feat so remarkable that we are able to contemplate and begin to explore the cosmos.

And what better place to contemplate the night sky than Ocracoke!

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is the story of a 1911 wedding on Portsmouth Island. You can read it here:


  1. Mochel6:47 AM

    Speaking of looking atbthe light of stars that may no longer be there, here is a link to an image of the 13.7 billion years since the Big Bang:

  2. bill kostar7:52 AM

    Reading your wonderful post reminds me of the Biblical observation:
    Lord, your sea is so large and my boat so small.
    Experiencing the vastness of the universe and our little place in it from the island is a metaphor that puts things in persepctive.

  3. Anonymous7:53 AM

    Philip, you squeezed in more "activities" on Fat Tuesday than ever! Glad you and your friends had the foresight to go outside and view the shuttle passing over NC. I got so caught up in my daily tasks that I completely forgot about it.

    Thanks for always.

  4. Anonymous8:38 AM


    That’s one of the things I and I’m sure others that read your blog, love about your writing & activities, you take the time for the interesting simple things in life and always enjoy them, with family & friends. Last night I ate fast food on the way to a 2 hour meeting, then home to stick my face in the computer & TV. Should have been outside looking towards the stars like you all!!

    My friend was really excited about the information you sent last night, he will be in touch!! THANKS!!!

    Take Care,


  5. Anonymous8:40 AM

    Just to clarify, the quote referenced above is the Breton Fisherman's Prayer:

    "Dear God, be good to me;
    The sea is so wide,
    And my boat is so small."

  6. anita baker9:27 AM

    Thank you for sharing your evening. It made me smile and thank God for such a beautiful earth. You are very blessed to live on Ocracoke.

  7. Anonymous4:26 AM

    Let us not forget there are only two more chances to observe a shuttle launch or re-entry for landing. the shuttle program is being retired this year. for 20 some odd years astronauts have risked their lives in the name of science and discovery. how often did we Americans tear ourselves away from the boob tube to look toward the heavens. I know I witnessed a truly awesome shuttle launch, though several hundreds miles away from liftoff; spectacular none the less as it raced towards the heavens and illuminated the early moning skies, my fellow co-workers-- we bonded over the event... throttle up.

  8. Anonymous1:04 PM

    I was on the island last week and studying the skies was the focus of my visit. I too saw Discovery and the ISS make their trek across the sky - it was amazing. The view of the cosmos from Ocracoke is stunning.