“The Guide”

Oppy continues to sit happily and quietly on Greeley Haven, keeping herself busy with in-depth studies of the rocks around her and the structure of the planet beneath her. We’re now, I think, maybe three weeks away from Oppy’s departure from Greeley – I’m just guessing, no inside knowledge or information! – so we have a little while longer to enjoy the stunning panoramic view from Oppy’s winter haven. When she leaves where will she go? Will she head north, trundling down to the northern edge of Cape York to study the outcrops and dunes there, before driving back down the eastern side of the Cape, taking a look at that v-shaped valley hacked out of the Cape’s edge? Or will she just turn around and head back the same way she came, back down towards and past Oyssey crater, with all its rocks and ejecta, maybe stopping to take a look at a few more of those Homestake-like gypsum veins before rolling off Cape York and heading south, to Solander Point and the Tribulation Hills, where the largest deposits of those phylosillicate clays are waiting to be studied? Time will tell…

I’ve been thinking about Greeley Haven a lot recently, or rather the future of it, and I’m sure that, in the future, people – tourists, historians, and others – will flock here to see for themselves what Oppy saw all those years…maybe centuries… before. Just as we can follow the famous “Oregon Trail” across the American West, following in the tracks of the pioneers and settlers, people of the future will follow the “Opportunity Trail”, trekking in led, organised tour groups, as a family or just alone, from Oppy’s landing site at Eagle Crater right down here to Endeavour, passing Endurance and Victoria along the way, passing those meteorites she found (or, rather, models of those meteorites; the originals will, if the martians of the future have any sense of history) be collected up and placed on display in a museum, to keep them safe from black market collectors and artefact smugglers) and posing beside notable locations before reaching the statue marking Oppy’s final resting place – wherever that ends up being…

Out of those musings came a new astropoem, which I’m printing below. I’m publishing it here before it goes up on my poetry blog, so you get to read it first.  I hope you enjoy it – and the artwork, which took me hours to create, but was definitely, I think, worth it… :-)

THE GUIDE

Somesol a so-tired tour guide

Will lead vacationing families

To this place one final time,

Their faces beaming behind gold-plated visors -

Some sun-starved and pale,

Betraying their martian birth;

Others Terra-tanned and dappled

With sweat, clearly not yet used

To the confines and cloying heat of a p-suit -

All clutching cameras as they climb

The Shoemaker spine of Cape York

To stand huffing and puffing by Greeley Haven.

Ever patient, the Guide will smile,

Describing for the millionth time how,

A hundred years before, brave Opportunity -

Left alone on Mars after Spirit’s death-by-quicksand

In Husband Hill’s dark shadow, half a world away –

Rested her weary wheels on these very stones,

Before rolling creakily away, continuing her epic

Quest for Clays beneath Ares’ butterscotch sky…

Fighting to be heard above the herds of screaming

Children; trying to stop their parents prodding

And poking at the ancient sites; shooing wooing teens

Away from Tisdale 2 as they try to etch their names

Into its aircraft carrier deck, she’ll count to ten,

Again and again and again, until it’s finally time

To lead her party off the hill back down into Endeavour Town,

Its modules shining white as a pile of broken bones

On the crater floor below…

As the footsore sightseers scatter in search of bars

Or the comfort of their beds, instead

The Guide will turn and head right back up to the Cape,

Striding past the gaping pit of Odyssey;

Skirting the sepia standing stones of Stoughton

Until she arrives back at Greeley’s rocky slope

And sits down with a heartfelt sigh, blissfully alone, at last,

Drinking in the landscape through a besotted lover’s eyes.

Behind her – the setting Sun, a ball of blue ice

Falling, leaf-slow, through the lavender alien sky;

In front – the Faraway Hills, hump-backed mountains

Marking Endeavour’s eastern side, their peaks painted

A dozen Picasso shades of orange, ginger and gold,

All afire with martian Alpenglow,

Their cratered slopes and bases already deep in shadow;

And beyond her booted feet, cast on the crater’s floor

By the fading Sun – her own silhouette surrounded by

A faerie-light halo: The Glory of Mars, right there for all to see.

Sitting there, with Earth shining o’er her shoulder,

A firefly fluttering blue and green above Victoria’s

Distant Capes she’ll know that there’s no other place,

On any world waltzing around any of the Milky Way’s

Cream-stirred-into-coffee Catherine wheel of stars,

She’d rather be, at the end of this, her final day.

© Stuart Atkinson 2012

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6 Responses to “The Guide”

  1. Buck says:

    You’ve taken me to Mars.

  2. bobrasey says:

    I love your flights of fancy. Thanks for the beautiful poem.

    I think we might have to wait longer than three weeks to leave the winter sunbathing spot, though. Three weeks only takes us to solstice:

    http://www.universetoday.com/93683/opportunity-phones-home-dusty-self-portraits-and-ground-breaking-science/

  3. Monica, Houston Texas says:

    Stuart, so beautiful a vista to behold and to watch the gloaming light, fade so slowly into night.

  4. Jeff in SoCal says:

    Exquisite. Left me teary-eyed.

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