In spite of our better selveswe say, ‘it is beautiful’as if to imply thatour witness of itconfers a meaningthat its inherentmovements lack:a sphere so terrifyingit could absorb 1,300 earthsclouds of marbledorange and whiteblue at the poles,our sighting of which,after Voyager passed,changes nothing—what we can picturebut not comprehend,like the storm cloudin its centreitself the size of earthwhich may ragefor decades,or centuries,and which was depictedon the t-shirt I woreas a boy—*imaginesthe sun reflectingoff a shiny objectflung beyondMars, then swingingpast the asteroid belttoward that hoarysphere of wind,a path that would takeless time to travelthan it takesfor a young boy to growin the remote reachesof a remote country*And thenat eighteenin musée d’Orsay,I struggle to recallmore thanturning the cornerto discoverBurial at Ornans,a paintingI thought I disliked,unéclat de rirea burst oflaughter,I saw somethingof myself in those figures,in Courbet’sanger—*What were the firstdetails I marked? The dogglancing off, the drunkenpriests with noses bloomingin rosacea, families more boredthan in mourning, the sinistercrucifix? No, it wasthe mood the drab skythat murmured its sighof complete and uttercapital unimportance.*Wind in the pinesa crowd in acafé parking lotred sun againsthills, late summersounds from insidechords thunderingfrom Steve Albini’s guitarto signal the startof his show—I never knewsuch angerwithin me.Nor what pleasureit provided.*The waves of Squally Point wherethe lake bends towardthe city of Pentictonmy father’s father threw histantrums and ate his roast beefhe insisted those windswere the strongesttheir waves crashingon Antler’s Beach.Of his funeral, years later,I remember nothing.*Sagebrushon the edgeof the mesaa dull grey-greenundulating towardthe lake, depthsof whichhave yet to bemeasured*“We just know enoughto know we were wrong”—the temperature abovethe 10,000 mile-wide red spotaveraged 25,000 Farenheitat our last measurement,theories that its shapehas diminishedsince Galileo may yetprove inaccurate:Yet, when Voyager flew by,in the year of my birth,its widthwas 14,500 miles.*The immensity of the sphere,as if it is watching us, isunfathomable: its size, shape orposition in a cosmos in whichit is less than a spec, withoutconsciousness, we might say,as if it is something ‘we’have—an image ofstorms along its northernhemisphere, taken byJuno on 3 November 20193,300 miles from theatmosphere, itself suspendedin an abyss as it capturesthe curve of the planet,the storm clouds, wavesdangling off the edge.*No, it’s not the sky, it’sthe open grave into whichno one glances while the manwith the crucifix leersdirectly at us*The pallbearersin long-brimmedhats port theblanketedcoffin towardits pitat the bottomcenter of thepicture*The wind along the lakefrom a car, the hillsof the valleyheading towarda small beachbetween two willow trees*I watched 2001in a cemented basementthe dead astronautin robotic armsreleasedinto infinite floatnear Jupiter’s perturbedmoons*MetisAdrasteaAmaltheaThebeIoEuropaGanymedeCallistoThemistoLedaHimaliaErsaPandiaLysietheaElaraDiaCarpoS/2003 J 12 (lost)ValetudoEuporieEuphemeS/2003 J 18S/2010 J 2ThelxinoeEuantheHelikeOrthosieS/2017 J 7S/2016 J 1S/2017 J 3locasteS/2003 J 16 (lost)PraxidikeHarpalykeMnemeMermippeThyoneS/2017 J 9AnankeHerseAitneS/2017 J 6S/2011 J 1KaleTaygeteS/2003 J 19CaldenePhilophrosyneS/2003 J 10 (lost)S/2003 J 23 (lost)EriomeAoedeKallichoreS/2017 J 5S/2017 J 8KalykeCarmeCallirrhoeEurydomeS/2017 J 2PasitheeS/2010 J 1KoreCylleneS/2011 J2EukeladeS/2017 J 1S/2003 J 4 (lost)PasiphaeHegemoneArcheIsonoeS/2003 J 9 (lost)EireneSinopeSpondeAutonoeMegacliteS/2003 J 2 (lost)*Themarbleforceof windaround whichtheyorbitseemstobreathe*Off highway 97a graveyard,tombstonesin Chinese scriptfrom when workerslaid tracks thatbrought prosperityto other men—around it, nothing is leftexcept brittle grass*How similarit feltto this lackof beingnowherewhat I had notyet registeredas stupiditywhich iseverywhereAnd nowas I circumambulatea museumwherea friendworksI cannotquitefathomits quotidianfact*That crowdof mournerson the rightthe womenwho covertheir facehavein their drabnesswindsweptdignity*And the king in his rageis at times beautifulonly at a distance when hisviolence and force are justcolors that make us ponderour own mutual powerlessnessin an infinite span hurtlingtoward even more wonders whoseenergies again are expendedfor no witness and letting goin that imaginary driftwe can love what we thoughthad tied us to our particularlandscapes but insteadunmoors us as we tooscatter with solar winds
Aaron Peck is a contributing editor at frieze magazine. He is also the author of a novella, The Bewilderments of Bernard Willis, a collaborative art book, Letters to the Pacific, and a monograph, Jeff Wall: North & West.