In this installment of Obscure Holidays, I present to you “Near Miss Day,” today on March 23rd. Apparently, this day was established to celebrate March 23rd, 1989, when an asteroid the size of a mountain just barely slipped past earth, passing within 500,000 miles of the planet. This holiday seems especially relevant, as some of you might remember the asteroid in mid-February that passed within 17,200 miles of earth. So in actuality, it seems this recent asteroid probably deserves its own holiday more than the old one, but ah well–for now, we’ll go with March 23rd.
It wasn’t an easy task to find a fitting poem for this particular day, but I think I found one that’s appropriate enough. It’s called “The Age of Dinosaurs” by James Scruton, and it’s a fairly recent poem (2001) I discovered on the Poetry Foundation’s website. It might not be about asteroids per se, but it’s close enough, and I quite like the poem anyway:
***The Age of Dinosaursby James Scruton***There are, of course, theoriesabout the wide-eyed, drop-jawedfascination children have for them,about how, before he’s learnedhis own phone number or address,a five-year-old can carrylike a few small stonesthe Latin tonnage of those names,the prefixes and preferencesfor leaf or meat.***My son recites the syllablesI stumble over now,sets up figures as I didyears ago in his prehistory.Here is the green ski slopeof a brontosaur’s back,there a triceratops in fullgladiator gear. From the armof a chair a pterodactylsurveys the dark primeval carpet.***Each has disappeared from timeto time, excavated finallyfrom beneath a cabinetor the sofa cushions, onlyto be buried again among its kindin the deep toy chest,the closed lid snug as earth.The next time they’re brought outto roam the living roomanother bone’s been found***somewhere, a tooth or fragmentof an eggshell dusted off,brushing away some long-held notionabout their life-spanor intelligence, warm bloodor cold. On the floorthey face off as if debatingthe latest find, what partof which one of themhas been discovered this time.***Or else they stand abreastin one long row, sideby scaly side, waiting to falllike dominoes, my son’stossed tennis ball a neon yellowasteroid, his shadow a dark cloudwhen he stands, his fervor for themcooling so slowly he can’t feel it—the speed of glaciers, maybe,how one age slides into the next.
With all this talk of asteroids, I’d suggest getting in some poetry reading while you still can. After all, you never know when a giant flaming rock might cut your reading days short. Although recently, I’ve heard talk of scientists trying to find new ways to deflect asteroids, like with laser beams and whatnot…I wonder if any of that stuff would actually work out? Anyway, if you wanna hear a funny song about dinosaurs/asteroids, check this one out on youtube.