A Small Speck of Dust Blowing Past through the Air

Last week humanity marked an important anniversary: Fifty years ago on April 12th, Yuri Gagarin was the first person to see the earth from its orbit.  His excursion—108 minutes— was an historical event for all of us.  For a look at what Gagarin would have seen from space you can watch First Orbit, a film created by astronauts at the International Space Station to celebrate this occasion.

This week marks a different, but equally significant, anniversary.  On April 20th one year ago, the largest oil spill in American history began.  We cannot yet fathom the many ways in which we have irrevocably altered the ecosystem of the Gulf and of our planet.   Yet, with the many natural and man-made disasters that have occurred in the year since the spill, we have turned our attention elsewhere.  Our problems are vast, like our universe, and without an astronaut’s view from above they can be difficult to measure. Scientists are able to calculate the vastness of the universe, but only astronauts who have traveled into space can appreciate our diminutive nature.  We are but tiny creatures on a small speck of dust in the sky.  What I am able to see, from where I stand, is an infinitesimal segment of the whole.

An artist’s vision of how to mark this week’s anniversary helped to shift my perspective so that I could see the larger picture.  Rochelle Nation, a jewelry artist, found a way to use tar from the oil spill to create a lasting impression of this event.  In her Stained collection, she shows us a glimpse of the disaster; her pieces are a beautiful reminder that we have not yet completed our task of repairing the damage in the Gulf.  Moreover, by donating her profits to raise awareness about the continuing needs of Gulf Coast residents, Nation offers us an opportunity to help restore the fragile ecosystem.

It will be another fifty years, if not longer, until future generations can identify what was lost.  Perhaps the teachers of those human beings will employ one artist’s legacy to teach their enduring lessons.  In my mind’s eye, I can see them wearing their Stained necklaces, tiny amulets to guard against the forces of a vast and unknowable universe.


Post a comment