I am looking at a photograph of the planet earth taken by a satellite. The photo shows primarily the northern most part of the western hemisphere. These days this type of perspective is common place but still I am awed at what I see.
I see an amazing planet. It appears to be so tranquil. It has an atmosphere with layers and layers of clouds. Some are connected, others are not. The clouds cover about a third of the planet below. Although this is a still photograph some of the clouds appear to be racing along; merrily casting shadows on the oceans and land below. Another very distinctive and angry storm over the northern Atlantic looks dark and consuming. For certain it is a force to be reckonned with.
The major land mass in this photograph is North America. To the south you can see islands in the Caribbean Sea, Central America, and northern most part of South America. From the great distance from which this photograph was taken you can see vast areas of forest in the north, wide open spaces in the Great Plains, major rivers, the Great Lakes and other major lakes primarily to the north, and the Hudson Bay. Greenland and a host of other islands are also visible in the northern Atlantic.
On the top of the world, mostly within the Arctic Circle you can see lots of ice; lots and lots of ice. On the date that this photograph was taken not too long ago the Arctic Ocean was still frozen. Imagine frozen oceans; it is difficult picture to conjure up in the average brain.
I stare and stare at this photograph. The photo does not match the vision of the earth that I hold in my brain.. At first I cannot discern what makes this image so fascinating and so discrepant. After much puzzling I realize I am looking from a distance that cannot discern much of the human world. There are no political boundaries. Cities are not visible. Roads and highways are not visible. Wars are not visible nor is poverty or human riches. I am looking at the big picture. I am looking at the planet as it appears from a great, great distance; devoid of all things human, full of the true meaning of life. I see the elements of life. I am experiencing some things of beauty and importance.
There is an irony here. From this distance I can see relatively few examples of biological life. Oh sure, I can see some large ecosystems like the boreal forest that stretches around the entire planet wherever land is to be found north of the 45th parallel. I can see the great plains, and I can imagine the vast grass lands that fill the landscape there. I can not see the intricacies of life or the endless living webs that form life on this planet. But I can see the foundations of life, rock, water, and atmosphere. I can see wind in the shape of the clouds. I can see the earth being molded by uplifted mountains and down cutting rivers. I can see that this is one living planet; Gaia.; one living organism; Gaia. With my own eyes I can see the fundamentals of a perfect planet.
I look away for a minute, but eyes cannot leave the view. Just like I cannot stop believing that our Earth will survive it’s present difficulties. The foundation will remain no matter what and these forces will yield life, even new life at nearly any cost.
I notice at the bottom of the page there is a button for a night time view of the planet from outer space.. Curious, I cannot resist and engage the electronic button. There suspended in space is a dark, dark world with thousands and thousands of lights across North America, particularly on the eastern seaboard. Some would see this as beautiful. I see it as a very real warning.
I turn off the electronic button and go back to the day time view of the planet earth. It remains beautiful. I will stare at it for some time to come. There is a simplistic beauty from this view from above. I see the world as it is. I see the source of perfection. I see dreams yet to be realized. I see the hope for renewal. I see what I think is the true beauty of our planet.
Written for www.wildramblings.com in August of 1009.