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Christmas Star

Christmas Star

Jupiter and Saturn, our family planets, will be close tonight.

Closer than they have been from an Earthling point of view for the past 800 years. Looking up at the night sky on the 21st December brings Christmas into perspective. The light falling into our eyes will have journeyed millions of miles from our sun. Heading out to Jupiter and onwards towards Saturn. Saturn is almost twice as far from Earth as Jupiter.

Apparently it is taking at least 52 minutes from Jupiter and one and a half hours from Saturn to reach Earth. These light waves are tickling our eyeballs as we gaze at the great CONJUNCTION (Christmas star). The light will have left the Sun, travelled millions of kilometers through space, bounced off the planets, and then touch us. According to the wiki, when light reaches our eyeballs, some is absorbed and some is reflected. So after gazing at the Christmas star, how about looking into the eyes the person close to you and exchange some refracted star light? A romantic Christmas gift for your loved one.

Giving gifts has had me reflecting on the effects it has on those who are literally forced to receive them. Unlike a bit of pure sunlight, a gift is a material thing. Whether you like it or not. Simon told me he doesn’t want any more junk. But imagine waking up on Christmas morning to find too much space under the tree. It’s bad enough that a microscopic coil of rna has prevented us from CONJUNCTIONING with all our families this Christmas. At least a little parcel to unwrap? Albeit it should be wrapped in Earth-safe recyclable paper & organic non-cotton ribbon and natural sticky tape. It must also be 100% local, non-toxic useful piece of art which plays nicely with everything else we own.

We are not made only of stardust, but also of starlight.

Being a person who is into planetary conservation and covid avoidance maneuvering, my Christmas shopping has had a light touch. I went to the local pharmacy by e-bike, and bought a bottle of Made in Italy aftershave called CUORE DI PEPE NERO for Simon. Once I got it home I read the extremely long list of mystery ingredients on the sophisticated “packaging from responsible sources”. It doesn’t actually include cuore di pepe nero – heart of black pepper. Good thing! It would most certainly make him sneeze.

Sneezing is the most unacceptable reflex known to man these days. A public sneeze causes instant consternation. I was riding my e-bike in Castel Gandolfo yesterday when someone in my immediate vicinity sneezed. It sent me pedalling off as fast as I could to the next view point. The weather has been sunny and calm, making our pretty lake Albano look like a glassy lenz. I looked down at the fantastic sphere of reflected heaven.

Perhaps tonight we will go to the highest lookout point to see the conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn in the starry sky. I expect it will be reflected in the water too. Imagine that light travelling from the Sun, bouncing off the planets, reflecting off the water and into our eyes where some of it is absorbed into our brain, and some is reflected on each other, and some will possibly be reflected right back to where it came from…

From dust to dust…ashes to ashes…light to light.

Lake Albano photo by Leanne

If you look extremely carefully at the reflection of the mountain in the water, you might be able to see the red algae bloom. Forming a swirl in the middle of lake, a micro copy of our galaxy!

ESA Christmas angel on Mars.

Latest discovery by the European Space Agency – Mars express. An angel near the south pole.

pointsetta flower gift
Free download, a Christmas gift from me to you.
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100 thousand lights for Christmas

100 thousand lights and a Carpenter workshop

Massimo the carpenter

…owns a three grotto workshop on the street below our apartment. He is Renata’s nephew. At this time of year the whole family clean out the man-made caverns and decorate them for Christmas. His sons are good looking enough to feature as Christ in the Marino Easter Procession. They also hang lights on one of the overgrown Christmas trees on the opposite corner, but sadly this doesn’t appear to have happened in 2020. However, their PRESEPE (nativity) is a joy. All lit up with twinkle lights so passers-by like us can peer into a small arched window and delight in the miniature scene. Joseph, Mary and the whole bible of characters. Only the baby is missing. You don’t put the baby in the crib before full term.

Every home, Church, restaurant and shop window features a PRESEPE. Crafters in town (mostly male pensionists) make the figurines and sell them to you straight from the workbench in their garage. Shapely bits of bark and moss are added to make mini hillside backdrops, miniature stone houses surround the sacred wooden stable at the center of the scene. Simon and I marvelled at an exquisite “We three Kings of Orient” elephant statuette the other day.

In the Church a huge Presepe sits on a temporary stage. It needs a coin to light it up. The entire village of Bethlehem comes to life with moving arms and nodding heads. Blacksmiths hammer, waterwheels churn, bread makers kneed, donkeys nod… and so forth. One gapes for as long as the money lasts.

Rome Christmas vibe

We walked around the middle of Rome on Saturday, which is a crazy thing to do considering the virus aerosolling around. It was fabulous nevertheless! The Via Condotti down from the Spanish steps is a swish twinkle of lights and music. But the BIG attraction is in Piazza Venezia where the municipality have paid 140 thousand euros for the most splendid world famous SPELACCHIO 2020. A 23 meter high tree, ablaze with one hundred thousand lights…a record number the Mayor says, to cheer us up. And she is so right, you cannot deny the uplifting effect it has. She’s a left winger from the five star party by the way. The tree is undeniably a pinnacle of brightness and a lighthouse of hope in the dark.

We made it to Piazza Navona in time to see a different type of light show there. A blast of blues and golds 4D projected onto the magnificent Bernini fountains makes everyone stand still and be whisked away to wonderland (via their smartphone screen). Buskers billow the streets with classical music, and it seems everyone, including ourselves are recklessly living in this paradoxical moment. Happy.

Spelacchio 2020, the Christmas tree in Rome inaugurated on 8 December
„" Also this year our "Spelacchio" returns, the Christmas tree in Rome now famous all over the world. In this difficult moment for all citizens, we want these lights to keep the hope of a peaceful Christmas lit but above all to give the strength to all of us to resist and overcome together the challenge of the health emergency ", declares the first citizen, Virginia Raggi."

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Simon and Leanne in front of the Spelacchio Christmas tree in Piazza Venezia, Rome, Italy 2020.
Thanks to Robert Shone for the photo.

To end I should mention we are in quite a strict situation here, no restaurants or bars are open after 6pm and there’s a curfew from 10pm. Over the Christmas holidays we are not allowed to travel at all. There is some discussion about allowing families to move between municipalities. In Italy sixty five thousand people have died from covid-19 this year. Total population is just over 60 million —