Searching for Clues Requires Remembering How to Think Like a Child

Duane Gundrum
4 min readJan 21, 2022

Some years ago, I found out there was going to be a partial eclipse of the sun. Knowing how rare it is for such an astronomical event — and hearing the various news stories about how unusual this event would be — I packed up the car and drove out to what I expected would be my personal experience to rival Dillard’s “Total Eclipse.” Upon arriving, I realized my adventure would parallel Dante’s rather than Dillard’s. The first indication was the truckloads of T-shirts embossed with slogans like “I SURVIVED THE ECLIPSE” and “WHAT ECLIPSE? IT WAS SO DARK I COULDN’T SEE ANYTHING.” The night was a dismal failure, and I drove home unfulfilled.

When I was young, I wanted to be an astrophysicist. OK, I couldn’t spell that, so I wanted to be Mr. Spock instead, but I gave that up as my spelling improved. At some point, I discovered we could actually see other galaxies through telescopes. I decided I was going to see one of these galaxies myself.

I convinced my mom to take me to the Griffith Park Observatory in Los Angeles, the only place I knew of that had a large telescope. The man who ran the telescope was quite receptive when my mom told him of my peaking interest in science. He showed us slides of the cosmos, talked at length about stars and planets, and then finally he led us to the telescope.

When I was first told about this telescope, I assumed it was similar to the one developed by Galileo to view the moons of Jupiter, and first seen by me, I might add, utilized by the infamous astronomer Bugs Bunny to track down the little Martian who continued to plague him to even the cartoons of today. This telescope, however, took me completely by surprise.

This mammoth cylinder could have filled my entire living room, and my family would still be trying to force the larger lens back into the house. There were gears and mechanisms located across the surface of the telescope, enough to justify an additional year of college for a mechanical engineer. Other than ALTITUDE and LEVEL, I had no idea what any of it meant.

The guide pulled up a stool and told me to stand on it, to give me access to the aperture to the universe. As my eyes focused on the already-focused lens, I found myself looking at a round image with rings. This was…

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Duane Gundrum

Author of Innocent Until Proven Guilty and 15 other novels. Writer, college professor and computer game designer.