Cooking with the Stars

Hold your thumb up to the sun.

Count to 10.

Thousands upon thousands of subatomic particles known as “neutrinos” just passed through your body.

You may have heard of the lab, deep beneath the head of the Homestake Gold Mine in South Dakota, that’s dedicated to the study of these particles – and, in turn, to a small part of the fathomless, underlying mystery of the cosmos.

Like many observable quandaries in the realm of quantum mechanics, neutrinos are produced during an event of massive energy (notably, in this case, the sustained fusion reaction of our sun). Within our sun, the prime atomic building block of the universe – hydrogen – is constantly being fused with itself into helium.

This marriage gives birth to a chain reaction of cosmotic creation, such as the transfer of some of this matter into energy, and the building of new and heavier elements.

Now, as lovely as neutrinos are (for example, they exist in three separate states at the same time), it’s mainly the Sun’s massive release of energy we’re concerned with – especially when it comes to cooking.

I promise there’s a point to all this.

Think about the food chain. Consider it. Look at the hamburger, or the salad, or the chips on your plate right now. Imagine what had to transpire for this meal to even exist. Go beyond the supermarket. Beyond the farmer. Beyond the animal. Beyond the plant. Even beyond the soil, or the sea.

No matter what the species, no matter who or what you are – human, cow, bird, fish, tree, grass – it is a vastly complex, and yet ultimately simple picture.

Gravity and energy, and the state of the very fabric of spacetime after the birth of the universe itself, all conspire to, in turn, give birth to stars… which, one day, will die themselves. As all things must.

But in their lives, which span eons, the potential for the creation and sustenance of life itself is undeniably huge and powerful. 

And beyond the mere act of this creation, we as humans had to experiment for many generations in order to elevate the basic necessities of fat, protein, salt, sugar, minerals and trace elements… into something divine.

Meat over an open flame is survival. Salt from the ocean, ground beads of peppercorn, and dried rosemary make it something more.

Consider as well the miracle of a bowl of non-poisonous plants, drizzled with oil pressed from tiny, pungent fruits and the leftovers of fermented grapes (itself a product of energy conversion).

There is a hint of something here – something beyond the realm of the observable. 

A great mystery presents itself in cooking, in the willful and creative endeavor of harvesting various iterations of stored energy from our sun, in the heating and reducing and chemical experimentation and mastery that can generate a simple plate – one that can make almost anything alright. Better still, this is mastery anyone can attain.

On this “pale blue dot”, moving through the inconceivable vastness of space, how strange – and how wonderful – that something as simple as preparing a meal can hold within it the mysteries of the subatomic, the competition for the energy of a slowly dying star, the subliminal experience of taste, and the gifts & lessons of generosity… all at once.


Your skin is of alabaster,
and your heart, rose quartz.

Your mind is diamond.
Your hair flows down like tiger’s eye.

And residing within granitic bones
of cooled lava,
your soul is formed
of topaz and citrine;

your eyes of obsidian,
of dragon’s blood,
of labradorite.

And your mouth
speaks in rivers
and your touch
laps as waves on the shore
and your dreams
are snow gathering on the high peaks;

for you were forged in stars,
and born of fire,
and a wonder,

never simply on display;

but forever that of beauty,
wild in the earth.


they say
write what you know-

you know?

trouble is,
I don’t know what I know

because the more I learn
the less I know

so let me tell you
what’s happening instead:

memories march into the jaws of stars,
dreams unfurl in the veil of the night
after sunset blood
and gold gun-grey dawn

my heart is wrapped
in blankets of darkness
in shrouds close and comforting

and I can see them all
all the scenes
from the time I was born
on and on

in single file moving past
one by one

into the deathblossom of a singularity

but no,
this is good
this is good
I’m telling you
this is all good

this is merely an examination
this is merely good science
this is a weighing of
causation and not correlation

this is letting the grass grow

this is staring down
the freight train
of an oncoming hailstorm
over a summer field

this is dancing with ghosts
under a winter sky

this is seeing the ocean
for the first time

this is getting lost
in the woods
this is getting lost anywhere
this is getting lost
on purpose

this is having your soul
open like bones
to see what’s inside

this is crushing your mind
like a tin can

this is hearing
your newborn heart

this is opening wide
to every thread
of every frequency fathomable

this is the night I met you

this is a hard run for the horizon
and a thousand little deaths

this is feast
this is famine

this is love-light
and blood-claw

speaking mercy and pain and fire
and the grace of a thousand seasons
holding the universe in your arms

but as I said,
I don’t have anything
to write about tonight

so this is where I’ll end it,
until I see your eyes in front of mine

and maybe then
I’ll have something to say.

The Time and Space of Humanity

Just over 4.5 billion years ago, our local solar system started forming. In the last 0.2% of that span of galactic time, against all odds, a species arose with the capacity for reason and the desire to dream beyond their little planet– to stare defiantly into the reaches of space, and wonder.

If the age of our solar system were 1 hour, we’ve been here less than 8 seconds. And despite the struggles that have consumed large parts of our history, and continue to do so, there’s no doubt that on this day, there is one thing that unites the members of humanity under its gaze– the total solar eclipse.

The Moon is almost 240,000 miles from Earth, and it will pass in front of the Sun, traveling at almost 2,000 mph in its tidally-locked orbit. In the prime region of its path, it will fully and perfectly eclipse the Sun, some 93,000,000 miles away. Light, the fastest thing in the known universe, travels at 186,000 miles/second from the Sun, reaching Earth in just over 8 minutes.

The Sun itself is middle-aged, and will live for another 5 billion years before dying a glorious and violent death, taking most of the immediate solar system with it.

How incredible, how strange, how humbling, to be a part of this young and wondrous species, to be able to look up knowing all this… and how much more humbling to realize that current estimates have calculated over 100,000,000,000 stars in our own Milky Way galaxy, and that there are roughly 10 trillion galaxies in the observable universe.

As you look up today, know that our Sun, the basis of all life on Earth, is one of a probable 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 (1 x 10^24) stars.

Our time on this planet has brought us to this point. The future of our species, of our fellow species, and of the place we all call home stands upon the edge of a knife. When the eclipse passes, after we’re all done talking about it, after we’ve gone to sleep, humanity will waken tomorrow with a faint memory, a whisper of something greater than ourselves. And work will resume. Conflict and struggle, hatred and violence will resume; ideology, irresponsibility, and pride will resume.

Yet so will the hope for peace, the love for our Earth and everything on it, and the call for a future built on the foundations of our better nature– the same one that took us to the Moon, and will take us beyond. As we speed through the vastness of space on this little speck of dust, we can’t help but wonder what’s out there, both at home and abroad in the universe.

Only time will tell what we’ll leave for future generations, what path they will have to take… and whether they will ever see the eclipse of humanity itself.

Question Mark

Shall I ask of you

things not seen for a thousand years?

May the common man walk on water,

if he has enough saved to upgrade his boots?

Is the logical extension of classical music

the electric guitar?

Will the rainforest

live in terrariums? Terraria?

Who will correct me

in a thousand years?

Is time only a tracing

from a to b?

If you travel backward,

what will you ask of those from the days of long ahead?

Or, is time a river

eternally swallowing its own tail?

And, will I see you