Outdoor Report

The space between my ears

Posted 11/3/20

In a stunning press conference last week, NASA has reported there is water on the moon. Notice I didn’t use an exclamation mark on that opening sentence.

Quite frankly, the much anticipated …

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Outdoor Report

The space between my ears

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In a stunning press conference last week, NASA has reported there is water on the moon. Notice I didn’t use an exclamation mark on that opening sentence.

Quite frankly, the much anticipated news hit with a thud on my desk. I’ve had many years of admiring the moon and the rest of space for that matter. I’m old enough to have been watching a black and white television when man first set foot on that dusty surface in 1969. And even then, as an impressionable child, I didn’t fall for my elementary teacher’s pitch of, “You too could be an astronaut.”

Despite having an over-developed imagination, I’ve never and will never want to climb in a space ship and go anywhere outside our atmosphere. There is so much to explore on earth — and they let me drive on this rock.

I haven’t even managed to make it to Devil’s Kitchen yet. I’ve tried, but my trips to the geological formation outside of Greybull have been ill-timed and the dirt road serving as the entrance was slicker than the upper lip of a toddler with seasonal allergies.

With that mental picture securely planted like a flag on the moon’s surface, consider that the moon is the fifth-largest satellite in the solar system (and by far the largest among planetary satellites relative to the size of the planet it orbits).

That explains all those T-shirts you can buy at the local NASA moon landing gift shop proclaiming “We’re No. 5!”

I’ve met an astronaut: Crown Point, Indiana’s own Jerry Lynn Ross, the first person to be launched into space seven times. He often gave speeches to kids at Chicago-area libraries when I was starting my career. I remember asking him if he would like to stop at the old tavern on Main for adult beverages after one of his presentations, but he declined my offer. Sadly, I was never able to ask the one thing I always wanted to know about space travel: Did Tang taste better in zero gravity or was the sour, yet artificially orange-sugary flavor only tolerated due to the lack of vending machines in space?

I didn’t get my fluffy stature by eating freeze-dried cuisine. Seriously, have you ever seen an astronaut cooking up a patty melt and fries? Any place absent of burgers is not my idea of a must-see destination.

Given that the other rock in our rotation around the sun is in the “outdoors” and I’m the Powell Tribune’s outdoors reporter, in an attempt to do my job, I decided to call Greg Wise.

He, without question, is my favorite space-loving local source. Wise runs the immensely popular Wyoming Night Skies group on Facebook (with 4,000 members). His super power is his extremely strong neck — earned from constantly craning while looking to the heavens; I bet the power really comes in handy when the only seat available is in the front row at the Vali Twin Cinema.

Turns out, I learned, Greg can instruct me on the craft of photographing the moon or even the Milky Way, but he has never spent much time wishing he could travel to space.

When I asked him to give me the skinny on the water on our moon, he told me to go to Space.com and read about the announcement and its impact. Not exactly what I had hoped to hear, but an honest answer, I guess. He has never led me astray in the past so I’m not going to dwell on his advice other than to say Space.com would have probably been the top search result had I typed any parameters including moon water.

Greg did offer me another story idea: “I know a guy who has seen Bigfoot,” he said.

“THE Bigfoot?” I asked with a hint of disbelief.

“Yeah, twice,” he replied in a serious tone.

I laughed, but he refused to join in.

Very much like the man in the moon, I never get tired of seeing the Panther’s team photographer as he orbits my tiny slice of Wyoming, sharing his talents and inspiring folks with his art to adore the beauty of God’s creations in abundance near here and in outer space.

I first met Greg up on the bench my first week in town. We were coincidentally photographing the same full moon and overcame the urge to run when we saw each other heading to the exact same vantage point in the middle of nowhere and in the middle of the night. Mosquitoes were attacking and chewing on every available inch of exposed skin.

In between me smacking Greg (I can’t stand to watch mosquitoes get away with a drop of blood, I told him) he taught me something — though it had nothing to do with the science of the moon and stars.

What Greg said that night was that he loved the beauty of the night skies, and he seemed genuinely inspired looking toward the stars for a rare moment of peace. Typically, I see Greg on the sidelines of sporting events all over town. I’m kind of hard of hearing, so I can’t say what he has ever told me while the crowds cheered in the background. But he’s always there.

Over the past few years I’ve found inspiration as well. Not by space, but by the joy I feel when near this humble man. His brand of smile is quite possibly the most infectious of any person I have ever met.

I’ve heard him price out photos for folks who want a copy. It’s never a lot and often includes a six-pack of fudgesicles as the sum total of the bill.

There may be water in the shadows of the moon. I’ll never see it in person to verify the scientific fact. But I’ll be thrilled to see Greg each and every time. If his smile was on the man in the moon, I might have tried a little harder to become an astronaut.

Copies of Greg’s spectacular annual calendars are available on Mr. D’s magazine rack, White Ink Printing or by contacting him personally. He didn’t ask me to say this, but Greg deserves a little karmic payback for all the generosity he shows our tiny, but beautiful slice of the universe.

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