Tony Vagneur: From Galileo to Shakespeare we have a pretty good line on how to soak in the sun

Tony Vagneur
Saddle Sore

The horses stood, calm with the absence of flies, no tail swishing or foot stomping, quietly gazing at the meadow just off the forest of aspens in which we found ourselves. The dead, gray-sheened log on which I sat eating my lunch, had been lying there long enough that two aspens at one end had grown around it, making it a captive of the lives that cradled its remains.

At my feet was a carpet of many-colored aspen leaves, drained of their life-giving chlorophyll, offering beauty of a different sort as they lay there, soaking up the brilliance of the afternoon sun, but sharing its warmth with this interloper who has made this particular spot a respite of favor many times over the years.

There was very little shadow under a cloudless blue sky, and the position of the sun, clearly overhead, was, in my relaxed state of mind as I studied the leaves, somewhere unseen and distant, an enchanted position from whence all life is nurtured. How its light envelops us, with unwavering consistency, and its rays with unerring brilliance find their way to our spinning sphere in the universe without interruption, is as purely magical as is life itself.

The sun, basically a great ball of gases, is only 93 million miles from Earth, which in today’s world of incessant talk about trillions of dollars, makes it seem as though the sun is but a friendly neighbor, just over the hill. It’s dependability through the eons of our life upon this Earth is remarkable, and in thinking about tomorrow, we can be reasonably certain it will continue for the next few centuries.

As Shakespeare said some time ago:

“Out, out, brief candle!

Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player,

That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,

And then is heard no more. It is a tale

Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,

Signifying nothing.”

Maybe Shakespeare was on to something with his reference to the brief candle. Nothing is forever, so we believe, and in the infinitesimal and incalculable sprawl of space, our sun is limited to the amount of burning gas it contains, and relatively speaking, so is life as we know it on this planet. Without the sun, life on Earth could not exist.

Ah yes, to continue on with the bard, from the beginning:

“To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,

Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,

To the last syllable of recorded time;

And all our yesterdays have lighted fools

The way to dusty death.”

So, to Macbeth, maybe our time upon this planet is a seemingly Sisyphean event, day after day trudging through without significant consequence. But what if the whole of life on our planet, the whole of the sun’s existence, is but a brief and temporary crack of light through a partially opened door into a huge, blackened room? Maybe that’s us. Grab it while we can.

From the original Egyptian sun god, Ra, to the Sun Dance of Plains Indians, to those lying out on sandy beaches, or frying up chicken for a picnic, or looking for an unclouded shot through new-fallen powder on the mountain, the sun is a daily participant in our lives, often taken for granted. Even on cloudy days, the brightness of the sun puts light in dreary.

All this thinking isn’t new by any stretch of the imagination, although it goes through my mind occasionally, and as I take a last look at the reflective aspen leaves beneath my boots, thinking of the approach of winter and the brilliant glint of sunshine off snowflakes, thoughts of Galileo Galilei, a long-ago astronomer (1564-1642), putting the ultimate stamp of legitimacy and tenderness upon the sun soothes my mind. “The sun, with all those planets revolving around it and dependent upon it, can still ripen a bunch of grapes as if it had nothing else in the universe to do.”

Tony Vagneur writes here on Saturdays and welcomes your comments at