Quilting An Inspired Moment

Yesterday morning the local news was all aflutter about the spaceship Endeavour flying over the city of Houston as it made its way to retirement in California. The 747 jet plane that carried Endeavour took off at sunrise, at exactly 7:02 A.M., heading west and hovering a mere 1500 feet above sea level so Houstonians could pay a final tribute as it flew by.

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Living a bit north of downtown, I didn’t think I would be able to catch it in the early morning skies, but then I heard a loud rumbling, and rushed out my front door in my nightgown…only to discover the noise was from a lawn mower.

But then when I went back upstairs, my house began to tremble, coupled with a deafening noise from the skies. I opened my bedroom window, and after noticing a looming shadow traverse across my pool, I looked up, and there was the most awe-inspiring site: The shuttle Endeavour flying piggyback on that 747 right over my house. To see it so close and see it in person…well, there are no words.

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Photo Credit: (NASA/ Sheri Locke)

 

Years ago, my good friend Cait Florschutz, who was reading a lot of Carl Sagan at the time, encouraged me to read his book Pale Blue Dot. There is a passage in it that is one of the most powerful bits of writing I have ever read.

He writes:

“From this distant vantage point, the Earth might not seem of any particular interest. But for us, it’s different. Consider again that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every ‘superstar,’ every ‘supreme leader,’ every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there – on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam…

The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena….Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity – in all this vastness – there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves. The Earth is the only world known, so far, to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment, the Earth is where we make our stand. It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.”

To read the full passage click here, or better yet read the book, but this bit of writing inspired me in 1998 to make my very first quilt block. It was a crazy quilted piece featuring a number of hand-embroidered constellations: Cassiopeia and Gemini, Orion and Ursa Major, and in the center of the block, depicted in a tiny cluster of French knots with thread in robin’s egg blue, was Earth.

I would share a photo of this very first block I ever stitched, but I’d only embarrass myself because the stitching is so bad.

But needless to say, I was inspired by Mr. Sagan’s words to quilt this, and the other morning while watching Endeavour sail across my bedroom window, I thought about how I will always remember that very brief moment in my life–where I was, where I have been, and where I have yet to go. It is a moment that I wouldn’t be surprised inspires a quilt someday soon.

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I hope everyone has a lovely, inspired, and stitch-filled weekend,

14 responses

  1. I was one of hundreds, maybe thousands, of people who lined the road at the entrance to JPL north of Pasadena, CA this morning to watch the Shuttle Endeavor circle its spiritual home! It was so cool to be part of this great American moment, and what an awesome sight. Thanks for sharing your experience with all the quilters out there who aren’t as fortunate as you and I were to have been in its flight path :)

  2. I live in Central Florida and has the pleasure of seeing it pass over Spaceship Earth at Walt Disney World but your post makes me want to read Carl Sagan. It has been a joy living here and seeing the shuttles lift off and land. Night launches have been spectacular even from 50 miles away. I will certainly miss the shuttles and am thankful for all the advances they have made to science and mankind. I was one of those kids that slept in a makeshift tent in my backyard to see sputnik pass in the night skies and remember when John Glen from Ohio was circling the earth. History keeps moving on the Blue Dot.

  3. What a gorgeous bit of writing. Thank you for sharing it, Pokey. I will, indeed, pick up this book and read it. As to the piggybacked shuttle: I was able to see one as it was being shuttled back to its launch site many years ago when I was still living in the midwest. It is awe-inspiring, indeed. Another related thing that was equally fantastic was being at two different night launches of a shuttle: one was when Eileen Collins, the first woman to pilot a shuttle, was on board. Observing that launch brought tears to my eyes.

  4. I worked for IBM as a NASA contractor at Johnson Space Center for 22 years. I stood along NASA Road 1 with hundreds of others to watch Endeavor pay tribute to all who helped put her in space. She flew directly over my house, but I just had to be at NASA. Beautiful sight indeed, and a heavy heart. I early retired some years ago, but most of my friends have now been laid off. This Endeavor flight truly marked the end of an era. Thanks for your tribute to her, Pokey. I, too, will look for the book.

  5. I was a child of the space race who pursued science with a passion. In doing so, I never took an art class (no room in my schedules). So I am catching up now and Quilting Arts was my start.
    As to Carl Sagan’s work, I read his work and I had the opportunity to be in the audience for two of his talks and was inspired. I find that my scientific background does inform my work.

  6. Thank you. I first became aware of that Carl Sagan passage when you shared it several years ago on a blog maybe? I love it. Your description of how you finally saw the shuttle (and the lawnmower) was great.

  7. Pokey, I am happy you got to see Endeavor fly-by. It was a sight to see. I was one of hundreds at Ellington Field when she did several fly-bys around the area. Later with all the 20,000+ people that walked up to see her up-close in person along with some of the pilots. Happy to see a part of history as it makes it final destination. Judith, Texas

  8. As I read the Carl Sagan Quote I was hearing it in his voice. His voice was so soothing. it brought back watching the series Cosmos. Thanks Pokey

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