When asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, I was stuck at the letter A. At various times in my formative years I wanted to be an astronomer, an artist or an author.
My family had a set of science encyclopedias that I would sit with for hours, thumbing through the pages. The pictures from space most intrigued me, and I enjoyed our family excursions out in the country to examine the night sky and name the constellations. I remember watching the moon landing on TV in July of 1969 as a 5-year-old, then looking up in the sky afterward trying to make sense of people being in space. My sister Lana and I enjoyed constructing rockets from Estes kits and launching them, and I wrote a report on Robert Goddard in 5th grade. I took astronomy and physics in high school and enjoyed both classes immensely, but I wasn’t much of an explorer. I was afraid of what might exist out there, having a fear of extraterrestrial beings. (Thank you, parents, for taking me to see Chariots of the Gods when I was 10. I had nightmares for years about that!) But I was compelled as a teenager to visit Devil’s Tower, WY, because of Close Encounters of the Third Kind. I must have felt the need to confront my fears head-on, but they remained.
A consummate daydreamer, my head was always somewhere else. I was more into creating new worlds than seeking to discover those in our universe. As much as I could I sought solitary spaces for living in a place of my own creation. I drew pictures and maps of make-believe countries and wrote stories, and I created habitats and buildings in Mom’s garden for the imaginary people who drove my little Matchbox cars. It seems I was always making up a place. My favorite classes were art, literature and creative writing. Lines, words, imagery, poetry, positive space/negative space, foreshadowing, foreshortening, interpretation – I loved it all! My teachers who taught these classes were my favorites.
I became an artist, but I’m really fortunate that I also have friends and colleagues who are authors. As the project manager for traveling exhibits at my day job, I’ve had the privilege of working with and getting to know some astronomers, astrophysicists, planetary scientists and rocket scientists. All these amazing people, those who discover and those who create, inspire me.