The Octoped Goes Into Space at the Stomach Center

Image taken by the Hubble telescope of a "baby star nursery." http://www.emol.org

Yesterday we went to the Arizona Stomach Center. Which is what Mbot calls the Arizona Science Center, because of the giant plastic stomach in the permanent exhibition about the body. Mbot has a love-hate relationship with the stomach. He loves to talk about it, looks forward to seeing it, remembers it rapturously…but when we are actually within visual contact of the giant stomach, he is terrified of it. The giant stomach grumbles, groans, and gurgles. The last time it belched, Mbot shot out of it like a flu bug into the toilet.

It was our first family outing to ASC sans wheels. We were a walking family unit, an octoped. And what was more, I wasn’t carrying anyone, so I actually had a chance to put on lipstick. We were an eight-footed being with makeup on. It was a momentous occasion on all fronts. It was a good change. The kind of change I like, instead of a bad change, the kind I fear.

Before we left home, I bought us a family annual pass online. It almost paid for itself in one visit.

When we got there, it was to find that the Van Gogh Alive! exhibition and the IMAX movies were $8 and $6 extra, respectively. I didn’t mind paying the extra, although by midafternoon, the Bots made it abundantly clear that they would prefer to return to Van Gogh in not less than ten years.

We always try to include an IMAX movie–partly because they are fabulous, and partly because they give me forty-five minutes to sit down. I cherish such moments of stillness. Yesterday, “Hubble 3-D” was in town. We bought a supply of water, caffeine, and peanut M&Ms, and grabbed four pairs of giant 3D glasses.

The lights went down. Gbot laid back in Husbot’s arms, both of them limp as overcooked stringbeans, Gbot looking like a miniature Elton John. As the first strains of the overly loud, overdramatic soundtrack filled the theater, Mbot bolted into my lap. “Can we go now?” he asked. Over and over again for the next forty-five minutes, he asked this. I held him tight, tried to distract him with M&Ms, and assured him that we could go right after the next rocket went into space. (And the next, and the next.)

Meanwhile, I stared awestruck over his shoulder at the images of space clouds trillions of miles across, the birthplace of stars. Scientists had christened the shining pinpoints of new light “tadpoles,” because the solar wind caused by their formation blows so hard it gives them a tail. Computer visualization brought the still shots of embryonic stars and galaxies to whirling life.

At the end, Mbot expressed relief that no one in the movie got hurt. The ominous music had led him to expect a monstery plot. He announced that he liked the movie, and opened up his hand to reveal a palmful of half-melted M&Ms that he was now relaxed enough to enjoy. I whipped out a wipie.

This morning, Mbot asked, “Why does the Earth not stop turning?”

My mind groped in emptiness. “Because we were born in motion,” I said, rather helplessly. I was thinking of the images of those stars, all that matter, rotating into being. I was thinking that motion was as much a part of them as the mass that was in motion.

In that moment, I think I found religion.

Ever since reading Chinua Achebe‘s “Things Fall Apart” as a college freshman, I have understood that change is a constant. Chemistry class confirmed it.

But I have always hoped that it can be different.

I always thought that if I did the right thing, if I were careful enough, I could trump change.

But this morning, in those six words I said without even thinking, I really understood it. We are born in space, we are born in time, we are born in flesh, we are born in motion. If you want to groove, you gotta move. I’m not on the ride. I’m in the ride. I am the ride. And no, I didn’t buy mind-altering drugs along with the M&Ms.

Somehow, I’m not as afraid of change now.

Not bad, for some taxpayer dollars, six bucks, and a wipie.

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2 thoughts on “The Octoped Goes Into Space at the Stomach Center

  1. Several things to say on this one: Walk every day with a man who worked on the propulsion system of Hubble. Amazing stories. M&Ms are a drug! No need to add anything. Had forgotten Things Fall Apart. Will read it again and then add it to my must read books list. Plan on stopping by and reading more. All joy in writing. HF

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