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I Was Glowing Back At Them

ByTom MillerThe Secret Life of Scientists and EngineersThe Secret Life of Scientists and Engineers

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Given her fascination with all things gigantic (the endless ice sheets of Antarctica that she studies, the huge bassoon that she plays so beautifully), it should come as no surprise that Adrienne Block’s love of the large started when she was just a young girl. Sitting alone in her Ohio backyard, young Adrienne—already something of a perfectionist—would gaze at the infinite nighttime sky and feel like any mistakes she made were perhaps not so bad in the wider scope of things. And the sky reached into her heart, too:

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“Seeing the constellations come up was a little like seeing a bright light slowly come on. I don’t know, it just made me smile from the inside—it just made me feel like I was glowing back at them. I think the experience I had as a kid with thinking about how big things were and thinking about how small my mistakes were was a little bit spiritual. Both in that it allowed me to forgive myself, but also in that it made me feel so special to be loved. You know, you can look at the universe and think it’s so enormous and I’m so small… but Mom loves me, Dad loves me. And that made me feel really special.”

When she was in college, Adrienne switched from studying what was above her—the sky–to studying what was below her—the Earth—and she’s now a geologist. She does much of her research in Antarctica, which because of the sun, the ice, and the snow, is one of the very brightest places on Earth. So Adrienne has definitely changed the direction of her gaze… but we get the feeling she’s still looking at the same light.

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