Monday, June 20, 2011

The Whole Truth

Ohh, Lordy, Lordy, Lord how I fail at this I'm-going-to-update-every-day-of-my-epic-summer thing. Sorry. I should have been updating far more often, as now I'm afraid that some of the passion and excitement has Hawking-radiated away. I'll try to quantum-tunnel it back in. (Ok, I'm done with the physics references now. Wait...who am I kidding? No I'm not.)

Side note: I just realized that it's easier to type with Symone off of my lap. (Symone, my guitar, for those who haven't met her and her cherry-red beauty.) My goodness gracious, it's been since the 3rd, hasn't it? I suppose the most logical thing would be to divide this post into cities. Ready, go.

Columbia, SC: Finally met Nettie face-to-face (YAY!) and we wandered around the South Carolina State Museum for a lovely afternoon. Found an old photo of Alan in the Antebellum South (no big deal) and, of course, got another 'I love you, Becca' from God when I randomly met two strangers in the Astronomy exhibit who, passionate with awe for the cosmos and science, befriended me and told me that they would be looking in the future Scientific journals for the "Robinson Effect" and actually said that they'd pray for my research. Just hold on to that for a second: pray for my research. To be honest, I don't think that they realize how much I appreciate and need that. Especially after today when the responsibility of two publications is growing heavier on my shoulders and my research seems elusive, meaningless and derivative, at this point. Something tells me that it'll turn around, and if not? I'll learn a hell of a lot more about solar flares than I knew before, anyway.

Up North, MI: The Jones wedding. About forty degrees colder than South Carolina, and I foolishly didn't think about that at all. All of a sudden, various members of my family became 'concerned' at the same time, and Grandma actually bought me a flight up so that I didn't have to drive 24 hours in one weekend (oh, joy!) Family has served me quite well. Of course, there was that whole Casey and Laura gig, and the Ashleigh gig, and we impromptu-rehearsed and sang our sets for the reception with the same whimsy as per usual. (Shout-out to Ashleigh: my American Honey!) But I can't describe how lovely the wedding was despite the cold and wet (my shoes actually molded) and how "Courtney" it felt, which means that it felt like comfort and camaraderie. Like music and various luncheon salads. Like I hadn't hugged a human being in over two weeks, and so I got my fill on long-overdue dock pictures and snuggly cousins and chick-flicks and the obligatory M&Ms and Twizzlers bowls from Aunt Sue (LOVE those!) because it's been years since we've all been in the same place and who knows when the next time will be? (PS Courtney: I totally knew that your birthday was in March. I suck. I'm distracted. Please love me still.) Then, Kellie and I flew back to the D where she headed to Cinci and I headed to the ATL.

Atlanta, GA (briefly, repeatedly): I flew into the ATL with a sunken heart, angry to sit at my gate, reluctant to set foot on an escalator, refusing to ride in the shuttle. I felt as if the entire airport were covered in a sticky slime, and I (shamefully) felt myself begin to judge every adult male and simultaneously attempt to look after every child under ten. Know why? Because Atlanta Airport (and Atlanta in general) is the world-hub for human trafficking and child prostitution. Yep, you read that correctly. The world-hub. So, like a paranoid cynic, the phrase 'Please don't get pimped today!' ran through my head every time I saw a little girl wander away from her mommy. But, my anger is probably rooted someplace else and will soon be replaced with empowerment, because on July 2nd, I have an appointment in Atlanta with a woman who is spear-heading one of the biggest anti-sex trafficking and anti-child prostitution campaigns in Atlanta called "A Future. Not A Past." This is actually right up-there in excitement with Tucson (which I'll discuss in a minute) and I simply cannot wait to discuss this issue with her, see what is being done, and find out what skills and tactics I can bring back to Lansing at the end of the summer. I'm star-struck for this woman and her movement. Stay tuned for a blog post right after that one, dripping with passion and fire, of course.

Tucson, AZ: Returned to SC only to turn back around, back to the ATL, out west over the wildfire. We had a four-night observing run at the SARA telescope on Kitt Peak National Observatory, which is only something that I've dreamed about since I was basically twelve. (Once again, no big deal.) To say that I had an amazing time would be a grotesque understatement, but due to the increasing length of this post, I'll try to be brief. I had never been to the desert before. I LOVED IT. I could hang in the Sonora, for sure, for sure. We took the days off of the mountain and wandered around the Sonora Desert Museum (the desert, basically, complete with sun-screen dispensers and water fountains!) and the University of Arizona, which has been added to my reach-graduate-school list (as they are incredibly competitive). By both day and night, we scoured the mountain top and toured many of the different telescopes, amazed by the landscape and the geckos and the science that goes on in that place. Everybody up there knows their astronomy (of course) but you have to understand how rare that seems sometimes. We spent our nights snapping photos of the new supernova in the Whirlpool Galaxy M51 for a joint publication, and after that, snapped photos of our favorite Messier objects and dark gas clouds. Standard. OH, and I hugged a cactus! Hugged! A cactus! I was the proverbial child in a sweet shop. But, of course, what goes up must come down and I am a woman who can't stay in the same place for too long anyway, so it was back to Clemson for us.

Clemson, SC: Today. Back to work, back to wondering how to squeeze information out of solar-flare spectra. Back to being terrified of computer coding, but figuring it out (with any luck). Back to the humidity. Tomorrow I hope to get more of a firm grasp on whatever scientific question I need to be attempting to answer. Inevitably, the doubts creep in and I lose focus, wondering if I really have got what it takes to do research without cookie-cutters and project outlines. Of course I do. I'm Becca Robinson.


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