Year of the Comets: A Journey from Sadness to the Stars
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Year of the Comets: A Journey from Sadness to the Stars

by Jan DeBlieu
     
 

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On the clearest nights in the darkest places you can see two thousand stars. On what scaffolding are they hung, Jan DeBlieu began to wonder. Her husband was sick. She needed signs of order and beauty.
And in every moment thousands of neurons fire in our brains, giving rise to our waking thoughts and dreams, our wishes and emotions. Can we map the complexities

Overview


On the clearest nights in the darkest places you can see two thousand stars. On what scaffolding are they hung, Jan DeBlieu began to wonder. Her husband was sick. She needed signs of order and beauty.
And in every moment thousands of neurons fire in our brains, giving rise to our waking thoughts and dreams, our wishes and emotions. Can we map the complexities of either the internal or external cosmos that defines who we are?
These two polarities, the deep inner path and the vast gaze outward, became of immense importance to Jan DeBlieu in the spring of 1996, with the appearance of the comet Hyakutake, the first of two great comets to visit our night sky within a year. That spring, her husband had begun a long slide into a clinical depression. One night, unable to sleep, she stepped outside and found herself staring at a great comet, an encounter that created an intense desire to learn all she could about the stars, space, celestial events of grand proportions and the structure of the universe.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
As in her previous book, Wind, DeBlieu uses forces of nature to illuminate the human condition. Here she brackets the harrowing story of her husband's severe depression with the appearances of the comets Hyakutake and Hale-Bopp; in between these astronomical events, she reflects on the chaos and order of the cosmos by weaving a well-paced history of stargazing. But it is the inner universe that dominates: "Demons of the mind: they dwell at the core of this account, alongside the lighted angels that perch in the heavens." And while many amateur astronomers have told their stories, few have had to raise a toddler and deal with a withdrawn and angry husband at the same time, so when DeBlieu goes outside and lies flat on the asphalt to examine the stars, one wonders if she wouldn't rather just stay there for a while. But eventually life begins to improve. "It's the same whether you're searching for personal truths or scientific fact," DeBlieu observes. "Something happens, some sequence of events that elicits a flash of understanding." Seeing significance in the arrival and departure of comets is not unusual, but DeBlieu finds more than portents of doom; instead, grief and longing are tempered by the hope that things might look up again some night. (May) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A nature journalist's memoir of her husband's battle with depression, balanced against her own discovery of the stars. In opening, DeBlieu (Wind, 1998) reminds us that 1995 was the year when a Japanese amateur astronomer discovered the comet Hyukatake. At that same time, her mother-in-law was diagnosed with a serious case of cancer, and her husband, Jeff, was traveling back and forth between coastal North Carolina and his mother's home in Mississippi. We learn a bit of the history of their courtship, when both were reporters in Oregon, and of DeBlieu's first impressions of Jeff's family, a colorful bunch of southerners. We also learn that Jeff's mother suffered from depression and had even been hospitalized for it. And as his mother's cancer later progressed, Jeff's own stress began to show. But the comet and the stars also had a powerful emotional effect on DeBlieu. Previously, she'd barely known the names of three or four constellations, but now she began to go out at night with binoculars and look up at the sky, almost overcome by its beauty and mystery. The narrative of her growing knowledge of the stars and of the history of astronomy alternates with Jeff's story, which entered a crisis stage after his mother's death. Apparently small events ignited arguments, and the couple's young son was caught in the middle. Eventually, Jeff's work began to suffer. Given a choice between resigning and taking medical leave, he chose the latter. As he recovered, DeBlieu built a metaphorical bridge between her own growing understanding of the stars and her understanding of the depths of the human mind. With the arrival of Hale-Bopp in 1998, she and her husband celebrated his emergence fromdepression. While the connections here between astronomy and psychology are ultimately subjective, its emotional message comes through: well written, often moving.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781593761219
Publisher:
Counterpoint Press
Publication date:
11/28/2006
Pages:
201
Product dimensions:
4.70(w) x 8.70(h) x 0.80(d)

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