I am on a northbound Acela out of DC, sitting next to an impeccably dressed young woman. She has her hair pulled back severely in a curt and pinned bun at the base of her skull and has tucked her feet into a pair of black spike heels. She appears entirely uncomfortable in the extremities of her getup, but this could be a poor assumption on my part.
My laptop is open and WiFi is working and I find a collection of photographs from NASA that had been put into a slideshow and posted by Yahoo. The photographs were collected from a robotic cruiser that had spent a good period of time on the surface of Mars. They are stunning ground-level captures of dusty open red spaces speckled with rocks, close ups of grit and bits of inherently foreign stone, mountain ranges rolling in the distance.
One of the photos strikes me more than the host of others. It features the sun going down behind a line of distant mountains, its rays muted somewhat by a dusty haze.
“Check this out,” I say to the woman. ”Sunset on Mars.”
I am impressed by what it must have taken for this photograph to arrive on my laptop at this moment in time, carried as it was from a distant planet and placed as it is now on a MacBook Pro that is connected to the Internet via wireless signals on a train that is screaming along on a pair of iron rails that connect the vast span we are covering.
She looks at the photograph and then she looks at me.
“Is that their sun,” she asks me.
I suppose it is. If one could be born on Mars and know nothing other than being and existing on Mars, it would be a Martian sun. But being as we are from this here, it is our sun. It is a matter of perspective and of place.
“That’s our sun,” I tell her.
“Cool,” she says.
Yes, it is cool. It is so much more than that, but it is cool nonetheless.