A Glorious Dawn

I love the poetry (yes, poetry) of Carl Sagan. Check out this video by Symphony of Science in which Carl Sagan discusses the necessary prerequisite of inventing the universe before making an apple pie from scratch and waxes poetic with “A still more glorious dawn awaits, not a sunrise, but a
galaxy rise, a morning filled with 400 billion suns, the rising of
the Milky Way.” It makes me happy to listen to this. It’s a perfect Sunday thing.

Carl Sagan – ‘A Glorious Dawn’ ft Stephen Hawking (Symphony of Science)

(Carl Sagan’s lyrics written by Carl Sagan, Ann Druyan and Steven Soter)

[Carl Sagan]
If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch
You must first invent the universe

Space is filled with a network of wormholes
You might emerge somewhere else in space
Some when-else in time

The sky calls to us
If we do not destroy ourselves
We will one day venture to the stars

A still more glorious dawn awaits
Not a sunrise, but a galaxy rise
A morning filled with 400 billion suns
The rising of the milky way

The Cosmos is full beyond measure of elegant truths
Of exquisite interrelationships
Of the awesome machinery of nature

I believe our future depends powerfully
On how well we understand this cosmos
In which we float like a mote of dust
In the morning sky

But the brain does much more than just recollect
It inter-compares, it synthesizes, it analyzes
it generates abstractions

The simplest thought like the concept of the number one
Has an elaborate logical underpinning
The brain has its own language
For testing the structure and consistency of the world

For thousands of years
People have wondered about the universe
Did it stretch out forever
Or was there a limit

From the big bang to black holes
From dark matter to a possible big crunch
Our image of the universe today
Is full of strange sounding ideas

How lucky we are to live in this time
The first moment in human history
When we are in fact visiting other worlds

The surface of the earth is the shore of the cosmic ocean
Recently we’ve waded a little way out
And the water seems inviting

Information about Symphony of Science , from the site:

The Symphony of Science is a musical project headed by John
Boswell, designed to deliver scientific knowledge and philosophy in
musical form. Here you can watch music videos, download songs, read
lyrics and find links relating to the messages conveyed by the music.

The project owes its existence in large measure to the wonderful
work of Carl Sagan, Ann Druyan, and Steve Soter, of Druyan-Sagan
Associates, and their production of the classic PBS Series Cosmos, as well as all the other featured figures and visuals.

Happy Holidays!

Photo courtesy of The Cathedral Heritage Foundation

St. Paul’s Cathedral
(Christmas Eve 2010)
Annette Marie Hyder

There was a choir up above
singing all the while.
Their voices fell from on high
like rain that waters the soul
floated like feathers
from many angel’s wings
descended like manna — made from music.

And candles?
There were many brightly lit
and flaming through the night
but none shone more brightly
than the faces all around me
none warmed like the flames
of devotion that crackled against
my skin/sin/skepticism.

Curiosity and a promise made
brought me there last night.
The beautiful people all around me
some in denim, some in suits
came out in the cold to kneel and to pray
to genuflect and sing
to worship with clean hearts
their God king.

And all the while
the priest’s words
blazed like stars
across the firmament
of my hearing

Midnight Mass

I consulted with my Catholic sister on what to wear, when to arrive  and how to conduct myself. Thus prepared, I ventured forth on a cold, snow-streeted night to attend Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve at the Cathedral of St. Paul here in St. Paul, Minnesota.

What to wear, when to arrive and how to behave

What to wear? Anything you want. I wore a black dress. I wanted to be respectful of the occasion but I also didn’t want to draw attention to myself.

When to arrive? My sister suggested 11;30 PM.

Dos and Don’ts? According to my sister: Do not partake of the sacrament if you are not Catholic. Do approach a priest if you would like a blessing.

I asked her “What about my being baptized a Catholic when I was a baby? Wouldn’t that make me good to go for the sacrament?” I didn’t really want to partake because I think being Catholic means sharing their beliefs and acting in accordance with those beliefs but I just wanted to hear what she would say. “Yes, a person who is baptized in the Catholic Church becomes a Catholic at
that moment. One’s initiation is deepened by confirmation and the
Eucharist, but one becomes a Catholic at baptism. But since you don’t  share our beliefs at this time and have not gone through confirmation, it wouldn’t really be appropriate to partake of the Eucharist. But you can go up and get a blessing from the priest if you want to.”

I sat in the middle of the center aisle and had a great view of everything — the vaulted ceilings, the confessionals, the statues and the stage (also the choir high above and behind the congregation.)

Long robes and religious theater

The cathedral’s vastness served to emphasize the mere human littleness
of everyone there — no matter the length of their robe or the height of their mitred hat. The presence of no less than six confessionals made me
think that they were very well prepared indeed to handle sins. Is that a normal number of confessionals? I had thought there would be just one.

One thing my sister didn’t tell me about were the kneeling benches — which I mistook for footrests! My neighbor pointed out to me that they were for kneeling and so following that instruction I used the one in my row appropriately.

When it came time for the Communion Rite, sure enough, in the program under “Communion Rite” I read (they also announced this information):

“All God’s children are welcome to this sacred place and liturgy. The Catholic understanding of Holy Communion as the very Body and Blood of Jesus Christ limits the reception of the Holy Eucharist to those who share our faith and are united in discipleship within the Church. Our brothers and sisters of other faiths are invited to come forward to receive a blessing at this time. The desire to do so may be indicated by crossing the arms over the chest.”

I got up to get a blessing (an orderly row-by-for affair) and when Most Reverend John C. Nienstedt saw my arms crossed over my chest, he said with sincerity, humility and great enthusiasm, “May God bless you always! Merry Christmas!”

Meanwhile, protesters…

Meanwhile protesters clashed with painted ceilings, strident voices were raised below stained glass windows, religious rebels tried to rouse resentment outside the cathedral, just feet away from the steps leading into the building.  The controversy they were promulgating was “traditions of men vs. truth of God”.


My sister has beautiful memories of attending Midnight Mass with our Irish-Catholic father. She feels especially connected to him in attending such. I am younger than her and do not have such a wealth of memories because he passed away when I was still a child. But now I have this memory of my own.

There were people of all colors and social standing and at one point in the service everyone turned to their neighbors and wished them blessings. I really liked that! I liked wishing people I didn’t know and would probably never see again the best and happiest and holiest of Christmases. We are all connected and this was a moving experience — connecting with people outside my usual sphere. I overheard one of my neighbors saying, “We are all God’s children.”

I kept waiting for the lights to go out. My sister had told me that the lights would go out and then the candles would be lit to symbolize the coming of Jesus Christ. But the lights never once went out. I don’t mind though. It seems fitting that a night filled with such joy in those around me and spilling over into my own heart through being there with them should be lit up like a new day, a glorious dawn.

Links of interest:


Virtual tour of Cathedral of Saint Paul

Link to Cathedral of Saint Paul website

Questions about Catholic baptism

Day longs for night

Here in Minnesota, with the trees wearing sweaters of snow and the avenues snow-plow-sculpted in ice, my thoughts are turning to Florida.

I miss the Spanish Moss draping the trees, multiple rainbows and temperatures hovering at  70 degrees.

Here’s a thinking-of-Florida poem:

Day Longs for Night
Annette Marie Hyder

The night
lets down her long dark gypsy hair
spins on her bare feet
and stomps her passion
for moths, black blooms
bats and all things witchy.

The moonlight,
her Mona Lisa smile,
mysterious and subtle, suffuses her
wild beauty
with a gentleness so fragile
it can be broken by
the ephemera of clouds.

Pieces of her hair
catch in the swaying trees
to curl and dry by morning’s light
into Spanish moss
as if the trees
could not bear
to let her go.

And she had no princess slipper
to leave upon the lawn
but she left dewdrops
crystal beads of perspiration
for day to come upon.

Day spends his time plotting
ways to find her in his arms —
the sunset a prayer, a beacon,
a campfire, for her wandering to find.


Completed in September 2008, the new Interstate 35W bridge over the
Mississippi River in Minneapolis boasts the world’s largest anti-icing
system and uses smart bridge technology, including 323 sensors that
will generate a record of how the bridge manages the stresses of
traffic. Photo by David Gonzalez
(Photo courtesy of Mn/DOT)

Did you know that Minnesota’s I-35W bridge replacement was named one of America’s 10 best transportation projects? You can read about it here at the Mn/DOT newsline.

I’ve been thinking a lot about bridges lately. As structures, bridges are magnificent in their engineering and their soaring architecture. Their maintenance is intriguing: the sly hatch doors that lead to an enclosed freeway-sized space filled with tension wires and inner workings, the out of the way paths that mirror the road above them in their layout, the way those paths often shrink down to cubbyhole sized openings that one must squeeze through while bent over to get through. Don’t even get me started on the allure of the bridge’s inner fortress being high above the water and requiring special means to access it. Don’t even ask me if the access into a bridge hatch seems like a reverse Alice in Wonderland limen crossing to me.

The idea of something bringing two sides together and allowing movement across a common area is a stimulating concept. Bridge as metaphor is a beautiful thing.

Here, one of my poems that features bridges:

the big melt
Annette Marie Hyder
Previously published in The Talking Stick

birds startle behind your eyes
your mouth holds a flood
that wants to wash out
foam over the cliffs
of what is between us

and the rush of water
has things in it
some ice still from the winter
some dead trees and detritus

my words are snares for your birds
my smile holds bridges
small ones, wooden ones
not anything
architecturally stunning

but my small wooden bridges
will make a way across
and my snares have taken your birds
so go ahead — say it

Weekend blizzard

White veils and fire
Annette Marie Hyder

I see down-filled counterpanes
spilling on the air
hear the whisper of wool
feel the kiss of cashmere
and the static crackle of polyester
in this storm.

The snow swirls sequins-and-glitter feet
that do not want to touch the ground
and Salome dances
with white veils tonight.

The spectacle makes me want
to cover me
wrap around me
all through the night
be my blanket
keep me warm and
hold me tight.

Just because Salome
is mentioned in this poem
there is no need to think
of John the Baptist
and his head served up
Martha Stewart style
to pay for others’ concupiscence.

Let any thought of baptisms be limited to
that of skin against skin
and the baptism of fire
between we two.

In the news

We had a blizzard here over the weekend and most of us with plans that
involved leaving the house quickly abandoned them. The snow fell 17 inches deep and  lay plush upon the city.

Agence France Press (AFP) reports on the storm that blew though Minnesota this weekend:

Blizzard rocks US Midwest, East Coast braces

CHICAGO — A fierce early winter storm pounded several Midwestern
states and was moving east on Sunday, shutting busy airports and
highways and snarling travel across about half the United States.

warnings were issued for parts of Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota
and Wisconsin as snow socked the states in tandem with wind gusts
topping 45 miles (72 kilometers) per hour.

The storm — 10 days
before the onset of winter — took its greatest toll in Minnesota, where
as much as two feet (61 centimeters) of snow had fallen in some
locations, according to the National Weather Service (NWS).

state’s largest city Minneapolis was under a blanket of white 17 inches
(43 cm) deep, the worst snowfall to hit the city in more than 19 years
and the fifth-biggest on record.

As an indicator of the storm’s
severity, Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport — a transit hub
with expertise in contending with foul weather — was shut down for the
first time in years.

“Travel conditions will remain hazardous and potentially dangerous,” the NWS said in a weather bulletin.

also damaged the Metrodome, home of the Minnesota Vikings American
football team, and led to the indefinite postponement of their game
against the New York Giants.

The stadium’s inflatable roof sagged
like a collapsed souffle when the snow’s weight damaged some of the
covering’s teflon panels. Read the entire article here.

Ghosts by the water and snow on the air

Photo Jasmine Rain Hyder

The weeds crackle their serrated edges against the wind as if they are biting the cold right back with their brown teeth. The grass, sharp-toothed as well, is sheathed in ice. Empty benches draw my imagination to thoughts of ghosts and to memories that lay in wait like hants.

Ghosts by the water
Annette Marie Hyder

Some say that
ghosts can’t feel
anything due to their incorporeal state.
But I know
that as long as there’s a skeleton left
for the ghosts to touch like a
talisman of real
they can feel — they can feel it in their bones.

When ice rattles down like teeth in a cup
being used as dice by the ghosts
when the mist comes rolling in
and when the storm of snow begins
if you are sitting on a bench and feel
a spectral coldness mixed with the real

you are no longer all alone —
a ghostly hand has clasped your own.

When the ghosts come hovering near
and whisper hauntly in your ear
when sky and hard ground blend to one
white vista overcome
with coldness one step from
the grave
don’t hesitate
don’t try being brave
it’s time to run for home.