I realize it’s probably a problem entirely unique to me that nobody else has ever struggled with in the history of mankind, but I always have a hard time figuring out how to dress this time of year.

During the past couple of weeks, I have on multiple occasions put on clothing in the morning based on a weather forecast I read or heard. Silly me.

Because of my naïve acceptance of such prognostications, I ended up spending gray, gloomy day or two wishing I was wearing a long sleeve shirt and had brought a heavier coat, and some warm, sunny days wishing I was wearing a light, short-sleeved shirt and had brought a lighter jacket. If I were smart, I would simply bring clothing appropriate for either style of weather and changed if I needed to.

The key word there is “if.” The fact I go through this pretty much every fall speaks for itself.

Doug Davison

Doug Davison

I guess the good news is that now that November is about here, deciding what to wear is about to become much easier for several months in a row. Now, where did I put that knit cap and gloves?

•Last Saturday evening, I was outside enjoying the incredible “Indian summer” weather and I looked up and saw a huge flock of snow geese flying south for the winter, maybe headed from summer breeding grounds of Baffin Island or the Northwest Territories in Canada to wintering digs in southern Texas or Mexico. My daughter saw it, too, and she figured there had to be 200 or more birds in the amazingly symmetrical “v” formation.

It was a phenomenal sight to behold, and every year when I see a big group of snow geese (sometimes much larger than the one from last weekend) making their annual 3,000-mile or more trek to a place where winter temperatures stay goose-friendly, I marvel at the teamwork and precision they employ. I also can never help but wonder: Who decides who flies where in the formation?

I mean, there was no noticeable strife or discontent within this wedge-shaped throng of hundreds of big birds. With the exception of a little ebbing and flowing, members of the two lines combining to form the “v” maintained their positions without so much as losing or gaining eight inches in relation to their nearest neighbors.

All the while, there was one goose flying point, one at each outermost reach of the “v” and a whole bunch in between. How do they know what spot to take, and how do they know what to do once they’re there?

No radio communication, no instrument panel, no radar – no nothing (but a mysterious, wonderful “something”). It’s borderline inexplicable and no less than awesome.

•Last Sunday night, my wife Wendy and I and a couple of cool dogs we know went for a walk on the second of back-to-back warm nights caused by a short outbreak of Indian summer.

A breeze was blowing through the surrounding pastures and stands of trees, and the moon was in a classic crescent shape, not shedding much light in the area of our remote Texas County outpost. The conditions were perfect – ideal temperatures and no humidity – and we could see a zillion stars in the late October Ozarks sky.

The cloud-like ribbon of our Milky Way galaxy was even clearly visible, and Wendy said something like, “What makes it look like that?”

“Imagine a giant Frisbee,” I said. “The Milky Way is shaped similarly, but with curved arms that stretch our from the middle, like a pinwheel. We’re out toward the end of one of the arms, and when we see the Milky Way in the night sky, we’re basically looking from one side of the Frisbee toward the other.”

“That’s hard for me to grasp,” she said.

No doubt, especially when you consider that that Frisbee happens to be about 120,00 light years in diameter and harbors hundreds of millions of massive burning objects we call stars. Even traveling 100 times faster than the speed of light (186,282 miles per second – more than three-quarters of the distance from Earth to the moon), it would take 1,200 years to go from one side of the galaxy to the other.

And there are billions of galaxies, many that would dwarf ours. Wow, do we have an awesome God, or what?

Doug Davison is a writer, photographer and newsroom assistant for the Houston Herald.  Email: ddavison@houstonherald.com.

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A week ago or so, my wife Wendy was looking at one of her favorite informational web sites, and there was a photo posted of the Horsehead Nebula that was recently taken by the Hubble Space Telescope.

The picture was incredible, and displayed an unexpected transparency to the formation, that previous images show as being more opaque in appearance.

In case you aren’t aware of what a nebula is, it’s defined as “an interstellar ‘cloud’ of dust, hydrogen, helium, and other ionized gases.”

In case you’re not aware of Hubble, it’s a sophisticated telescope that orbits the Earth after being carried into position by the Space Shuttle Discovery in 1990. It’s named after renowned astronomer Edwin Hubble, and enjoys the luxury of peering out into the heavens without the burden of distortion caused by particles and other distractions inherent to a planet’s atmosphere (which hinders even the best ground-based units).

While she was checking the picture out, I asked, “do you know how big that thing is?”

Doug Davison

Doug Davison

When she said she really didn’t, I simply said, “it’s way bigger than our solar system.”

That was a major understatement.

The human brain can only go so far in understanding the magnitude of God’s creation, and its immensity is a difficult thing to grasp. But I’ve always enjoyed trying.

The solar system our Earth is part of isn’t small by human standards, but its size is, in fact, plausibly

measurable in miles. At its outer edge is Pluto, a familiar heavenly body (that either is or isn’t a planet, depending on what scientific agency you listen to) that revolves around the Sun in kind of an oval pattern, at an average distance of about 3.67 billion miles.

That’s pretty far, considering the fact most of us who live in these parts don’t make it to Springfield more than once or twice a month because of the 90-mile trek involved.

But our solar system is puny, really.

Creation is so big that when you get outside our little neighborhood, it’s no longer practical to measure distances in miles. So vast are the spaces in what is aptly called “space” (that’s literally what it is – nothingness, or space, between objects) that time becomes the only practical form of measurement, and the standard is light years.

We hear the term light year relatively often without really stopping to ponder what it means. But its meaning is simple: the distance light travels in a year.

And since light travels at about 186,000 miles a second, that’s one heck of a long way. To illustrate, moving along at the snail’s pace of about 17,000 miles per hour, our Apollo astronauts made it to the moon in about three days. Light takes less than a second-and-a-half.

Move over Jeff Gordon.

So, back to the Horsehead Nebula. Shaped like a horse’s head and located in the constellation Orion, it’s about 18 light years long (or tall) and 2.7 light years wide (and deep). Man, that’s like a mess bigger than our solar system.

And it’s 1,500 light years away from our home coordinates. If we leave now, well, let’s just say we ain’t getting there before the Saturday matinee, or even Sunday supper. In fact, we ain’t getting there, period (unless Scotty can coax warp 10 out of the old propulsion system one more time).

Another fair-sized nebula is the Crab Nebula, in the constellation Taurus. Believed to be formed by a supernova (the explosion of a giant star), it’s 10 light years in diameter. To put that in perspective, if Earth was the size of a basketball, the Crab Nebula would be the size of Earth. Staying with the hoops theme, I’m thinking God can easily “palm” Earth.

Big? Those nebulas (or is it nebulae?) ain’t nuthin’.

Our solar system sits in the outer portion of the Milky Way Galaxy, a spiral-shaped gathering of hundreds of billions of stars that’s 120,000 light years in diameter. Geez, Scotty, can’t we get warp 50 out of this bucket of bolts? At warp 10, we won’t make it to the other side for generations.

And in case those crazy-big numbers don’t do the trick, this puts the size of God’s creation way out of the realm of true understanding: there are billions upon billions of galaxies, each one harboring hundreds of billions of stars, and each one located thousands upon thousands of light years from its nearest neighbor.

That kind of makes issues like a leaky roof or a dog trampling a bed of pansies seem sort of insignificant. But when you consider the size of what we’re a part of – I mean really consider it – insignificance is the only plausible conclusion to our existence.

Behold the awesome power of the Creator, to whom a light year is only a blip on the radar of infinity.

Doug Davison is a writer, photographer and newsroom assistant for the Houston Herald.  Email:  ddavison@houstonherald.com.

A full view of the Horsehead Nebula.

A full view of the Horsehead Nebula.

A closer-up view of the Horsehead Nebula.

A closer-up view of the Horsehead Nebula.

The cloudy-looking, unimaginably large mystery that is the Horsehead Nebula.

The cloudy-looking, unimaginably large mystery that is the Horsehead Nebula.

The Crab Nebula, 10 light years in diameter.

The Crab Nebula, 10 light years in diameter.

The Earth-orbiting Hubble Space Telescope.

The Earth-orbiting Hubble Space Telescope.