When I was a little girl, my two older brothers took great delight in frightening the tar out of me at every possible opportunity. There were no holds barred, and of course because I was the youngest of three children, my parents were more relaxed by the time they had me. They paid no attention. At all. One of my brothers accidentally set the kitchen on fire, and the curtains and most of the cupboards were gone before I could get my parents' attention. Mom and Dad were in the garden, and I kept running outside, "The kitchen is in fire! Really! The kitchen is on fire!" When they finally saw the smoke billowing from the windows, they realized the severity of the situation. So, all through my childhood, I was fair game for my brothers without anyone paying too much attention. As a result, I developed a fairly severe anxiety disorder that took years to get rid of, and very occasionally something will trigger it again.
One of the things my brothers used to say to me was, "What would you do if the world came to an end?" (Oh, I know, delightful little b*ggers, weren't they?) At the age of five or six, my world, of course, consisted of my cozy house, my friends, school, teachers, Mom and Dad, visits to my grandparents. I had no real knowledge of a world beyond that, or even a world beyond our world, other than to know there was a vast universe "out there somewhere". But to my brothers, the universe was a scary, mysterious place, filled with rogue planets that could crash into ours at any moment, obliterating all life on earth. Fortunately, my father was an amateur astronomer and had dozens of wonderful books on the universe and the stars, and it wasn't until I was in my teens that I could look up at the night sky and watch the shooting stars without fear that one of them had our number on it.
The other day I watched a movie called Melancholia that took me at the speed of light -- no pun intended -- back to my childhood. It is the story of a huge rogue planet, Melancholia, that is headed straight for earth. Visually, the movie is a work of art, and Kirsten Dunst's performance was Oscar-worthy. As a work of it, it does what art should do -- it is sometimes difficult to look at and even more difficult to forget. As one critic said, "Melancholia will haunt you for days, maybe weeks." In addition to being a work of art, the movie is a cautionary tale as well. Life on earth is fragile, and it doesn't take a rogue planet to destroy it. We can do a pretty good job of it ourselves if we are not careful. On this, the first day of spring, we should celebrate the new life emerging from the earth. It may well be the only life in the universe, and it is precious. It's when we realize how close we are to losing something, that we learn to appreciate it.