Fort Fairfield Journal About Us Contact Us Advertising Rates Subscribe Distribution Bible Reference Our Library
Larry Berz Hikes Mars Hill to Limestone30 miles for 30 years of FMI
By: David Deschesne
Fort Fairfield Journal, November 13, 2012
Nearly two months after completing his landmark fifty mile hike from Houlton to Limestone, Francis Malcolm Institute's planetarium director, Larry Berz throttled back a little by completing a thirty mile hike from Mars Hill to Limestone. Interestingly, the 30 mile hike was congruent with FMI's thirtieth year anniversary, though it wasn't planned that way.
"There is a correlation," said Berz. "As I started this morning from Mars Hill at five in the morning, the mission clarified and crystallized in conjunction with the 30th year commemoration of the opening of the Francis Malcolm Institute. This hike didn't really start out that way, it just worked that way and I accepted it."
Berz commenced his hike at the Gulf station in Mars Hill in the early morning hours of November 2. "It was a frontier experience as I arrived in Mars Hill at five in the morning in total darkness with a few wayfarers struggling for consciousness. My wagon master, our very own Luke Shorty, the Executive Director of the Maine School of Science and Mathematics, showed that administrators can also be participants. He was full of fire and high hopes as he dropped me off alone to begin the trek."
Mr. Berz reflects on the aura of this Fall hike when compared to his last hike held in September and how the two experiences differ. "The overall feeling was one of transition and there's a sense of nostalgia to look about at landscapes that were once in full blossom and full leaf and verdant and growing and so alive. Suddenly you're forced with a landscape that's rather barren, chilly, the stars shining through the tree branches quite clearly. It left me with a feeling of both nostalgia but also a sense of continuity. Yes, Summer blazes, but the fires of Fall are going to arrive and they do up here in Northern Maine. We were able to start and maintain continuity and this adventure, may I remind the readers, began in March in ice and in barrenness and I must say in temperatures colder than this. That's okay. A lot of folks up here don't necessarily enjoy the signs of the cold and the white from the ice and the darkness. But when you see it in totality that it's simply this planet orbiting a middle size star carrying through the motions that since creation have been providing a blessing for life, what more can you say? Bring it on! is what I say.
As planetarium director at FMI, Berz is always keen to note the nighttime sky in all of its wonder and majesty. "The sky was beyond clear. It was transcendent. The sky was real, it was touchable. It was blanketed with stars. It was the kind of sky that today children just read about in storybooks. It was personal and it was close. The stars that have been my professional purpose for the last thirty years here in Northern Maine, become eminent when you have a morning like this; gloriously clear, not a cloud in the sky.
But, the sky wasn't so lucid at the start of the trip because of the presence of "light pollution" cropping up in areas of high human activity. "Even in as small a community as the wonderful town that is Mars Hill, it's saturated with light pollution even at four or five in the morning. That's just the nature of American economy and society and culture today. But, when you leave that town and suddenly it's like a veil has lifted you realize that the night belongs to the dark. There's nothing wrong with that and, above all, there's nothing to be afraid of. We live in a society today that is so fearful and it's fearful of the night, fearful of the dark. God made the night and the day and they are both good. So, when you go into darkness you look up. There was a lot to see this morning, I must say. An unforgettable and lovely sight."
Gazing at the night sky with all of the stellar objects therein, brings to mind Olber's paradox which states If there are an infinite number of stars and the universe has been around for an infinite amount of time, the night sky should be as bright as daytime with a star occupying every single point in it, but yet it still remains mostly dark. Mr. Berz philosophized on the conundrum that is Obler's paradox during his hike. "I can only be cosmological about this and consider the possibility that first of all from this particular point of view, we may have obstruction that prevents us from getting that full flare of illumination. In addition, if we have an expanding cosmos it's possible that the light that might be occupying all that paradoxical space is spreading out as well, too, compensating somewhat for the overall illumination. Whether I can solve Olber's paradox successfully on the second of November, 2013 has less to do with a simple sense of wonder and that is what became the bottom line for this thirty mile hike. A sense of wonder, and beauty."
“We should remember the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson who was once quoted as saying, ‘The clarity of the night sky was to keep us in the perpetual presence of the sublime’ and I want to confirm and acknowledge Emerson today.”
above photo: Larry Berz (right) was joined in Fort Fairfield with some students from the Maine School of Science and Mathematics as he embarked on the final leg of his 30 mile journey to MSSM in Limestone. photo/David Deschesne
Fort Fairfield Journal ©2013 David R. Deschesne, All Rights Reserved