So what does one do when visiting a radio telescope? Well, gape, for starters. Gape at the immensity of the structure. Gape at the knowledge that the signals beeping forth from the place where you are standing will soon be bouncing around the cosmos, and gape at how small this makes the earth suddenly seem. Visitors are not allowed inside the actual control booth, but from a viewing platform just outside, I looked down into the vast white surface that those space-shuttle astronauts observe and watched as a massive boom was extended out over it, housing the technical apparatus from which the signals are bounced into space. A sonorous ping reverberated throughout the facility, the very signal that would soon echo throughout the heavens. Sure, there's a gift shop (rather, a Galaxy Shop) and a hands-on interpretive center where visitors can learn exactly how the telescope works, but like the Rio Camuy Caverns, sometimes the best moments at a place like the observatory come from taking time to ponder the height and breadth and depth of this space and time continuum that we inhabit. It is a place where one realizes that we often think on too small a scale and that anything really is possible.
Which brings me back to my running on the golf course. The morning after my visits to the caves and the observatory, my head still ringing with questions about the meaning of life, I was out running on the resort's links. The layout took me along an oceanfront cliff before plunging through a row of condos and then out into a series of low hills lined with palm trees. I had the course to myself. It was quiet. I was lost in thought.
Then, literally, out of the blue, a golf ball fell to earth just two feet away from me.
I stopped and looked around. There were no golfers, and no passing bird had dropped the ball.