About a week ago, I met a man named Felix. Now Felix is an astronomer. He looks at the stars, looks at the moons in the sky, likes to check out the rings around Jupiter, likes to collect telescopes. Felix even builds telescopes every now and again.
I found Felix, or I should say Felix found me, at a coffee shop in Bellingham sitting alone reading about the total solar eclipse that is to occur on August 21 2017. The "path of totality" they call it. While reading about the path of totality, Felix peered over my shoulder. "Pretty ironic that you are reading about a total solar eclipse and you can barely read it because of the sun's reflection," he said. I chuckled, mumbled, and bumbled. He asked to sit, and I motioned to the chair in front of me.
Felix the astronomer was also Felix the physicist. He taught for sometime at a couple of local colleges, Western Washington University (WWU) for the longest stint. Felix was tall, thin, had delicate handwriting, and wore big wiry glasses. I guess he was probably in his late 70's, but his mind was still sharp as a tack. He liked to share stories.
He told me all about different equations to measure the probability of life in the universe. He shared how he became interested in the stars and sky. He shared how his different theories about our perception of time and causality. He told me about the discovery and etymology of Pluto. He told me about his definitions of life. He shared, and I did my best to listen, often misreading his silence for an invitation to share my own ideas.
Felix is a widower. His wife has passed, but he still keeps himself busy. Going through thrift stores and antique shops looking for telescopes to collect or parts he might buy and build with. I got the sense in talking with Felix that he liked to stay busy; he didn't dwell on things. Rather than aimlessly plug away at solving problems without immediate answers, Felix seemed set on continuing his exploration. Felix seemed to have a good sense on what is worth investing his energy into.
Just as soon as he had come into my life, he got up, shook my hand and left. I sat wondering about the eyes behind those wiry framed glasses, curious to know how they have changed composition over the years.