Happy Vernal Equinox: Celebrating More Than Just Spring (or … A Love Story, Part 1)

(Let’s pretend that I got this one posted “on time” 2 weeks ago, ‘kay?) The vernal equinox, otherwise known as the first day of Spring (here north of the equator!), has meaning to me that goes beyond its astronomical significance.  March 21 is the day that the StarMan and I have long regarded as our anniversary date.  Going all mushy or TMI is not my style, but I really don’t give StarMan the credit he deserves. He is the embodiment of unconditional love, and I am the luckiest person alive to be the person with whom he decided to share his life.

StarMan met me at a time when I suspect that MS was just beginning to manifest itself, although despite many doctor visits, I didn’t recognize it as such.  He saw, first hand, the blinding effects of my optic neuritis attack, the first tangible appearance of the specter of MS that hung like a dark threatening cloud over me for 15 years afterward (and truthfully, has never left).   In spite of these possible health concerns (and a few other significant obstacles that deserve a separate post to properly describe!), StarMan was committed to spending his life with me.

Our Mar 21 “anniversary” was institutionalized back in 1997 (18 years ago — gasp!) by a lovely hike in Joshua Tree National Park (Joshua trees are shown in the above picture).  I’ll forever regard those wonderful, odd-looking trees (more cactus than tree, truthfully) as a kind of emblem of our love for each other — we shared our very first tentative/shy kiss under one of those trees!  We took that hike following an incredible week together conducting science research on a telescope at Palomar Observatory.  Ironically, because of my current work, I find myself in close proximity to this park rather frequently over the past 6 years or so.  The occasional Joshua tree can be seen on the landscape just outside one of the sites at which I attend many mission-related meetings, never failing to put a smile on my face and warming my heart

I had just landed my first “big girl” job in 1996 as a physics & astronomy professor at a private university in Texas, after having completed a postdoctoral position at a university along the U.S. east coast.  I first laid eyes on StarMan during a meeting that my postdoc mentor had brought me to at Goddard Space Flight Center.  This science team meeting was to coordinate a science project that was being conducted during a Shuttle mission.  My main task was to lead the authorship of a paper that consolidated the scientific findings from this project.  Due to several factors (the need to collect more data from ground-based telescopes, my ever-increasing fatigue during that time period, etc), I was unable to get the paper submitted for publication before my postdoc was finished, but continued working on it as I took on the new role of a tenure track professor in Texas.

During those first months in Texas, StarMan called me frequently.  Given that he had never gave any indication of a romantic interest in me during the time that I was a postdoc and much closer to his “neck of the woods”, I just assumed he was calling to get status on the progress of the science paper, and to apply a little pressure to move it along.  The frequency of his calls became an irritant — how many times did I need to be reminded that I hadn’t completed something that needed to be finished yesterday?!  But one day, he wondered if I might be interested in helping him with an observing run at Palomar Observatory for a project related to the paper we were writing.  I said “yes”,  and soon, the fact that all those calls had not been entirely about the paper became self-evident!  [to be continued!]

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