23b. Intermission & 24. Remarks Upon Seeing The Milky Way With The Naked Eye

The Southern Hemisphere affords some incredible views of the Milky Way, and, while Australia wasn’t the first time I’d seen it, the way that it stretches directly overhead from horizon to horizon in the winter months was new to me. It was utterly inspiring and humbling and all that jazz. The clouds of dust obscuring the centre of the galaxy, and how we were all created from similar bits of dust floating around – it’s hard not to see the Milky Way above our heads as the literal birth canal of existence. And it does…. sort of… look like a massive space vagina. The Space Vagina. I’m not embarrassed to say it. Carl Sagan called it “the backbone of the night”, but he. Was. A. Coward!

I would like to say that I was able to find out more about the historical (and prehistorical) antecedents of this idea – The Milky Way being the vagina of human existence – but, while googling “space vagina Milky Way” leads to more SFW hits than you’d expect, they’re mostly webpages in the authorial voice of a stoned kid at Frank Zappa concert rather than, say, academic works on myth and folklore. And I really struggled to convey the concept of “space vagina” lyrically without it sounding… well, like a stoned kid at a Frank Zappa concert. At the time I came up with the idea, I was crossing the Bass Strait – the stretch of ocean between Tasmania and Melbourne bay – and I started thinking about how, far from land, seeing the Milky Way overhead and the dark ocean all around must have been mind-blowing to mariners of 100, or 200, or 20,000 years ago. I was travelling on a well-lit overnight ferry; I was mostly watching 80s Australian music videos below decks, so my spiritual journey was different in nature. I’m neither a sailor, nor a captain, Richie Valens.

You can hear a lot more about the music on the accompanying podcast episode; the music from the Intermission and intro to “Remarks…” came from a commission to write the theme song for the 90 Minutes or Less Film Festival Podcast, set up by a couple of friends of mine; I repurposed the music for this, accurate organ sounds for 1920s Cinema Wurlitzers and Ennio Morricone guitars and all. And of course I repurposed The Boss’ title, “The Darkness At The Edge of Town”, for the chorus refrain, “the darkness above the centre of town” – in this case, the Milky Way. I hadn’t heard his song before I wrote this one, but I really liked the title – I think I’d mentally elided it with HP Lovecraft’s “The Colour Out Of Space”, a short story in which a meteor crashes on the edge of a farm in rural New England, and starts to corrupt and drive mad everything in its orbit. That isn’t what the Bruce Springsteen song is about, unfortunately.

Next week, in keeping with our celestial theme, we hear from a guy who really likes the moon. Until then, you can read about all the songs from Year of The Bird here and pre-order the album here.