Peter Adair holds his  calendar Earth Story. (Zachary P. Stephens/Reformer)
Peter Adair holds his calendar Earth Story. (Zachary P. Stephens/Reformer)
Saturday December 3, 2011

"Two years ago I wrote an article for the Reformer for Earth Day," said Peter Adair, sitting in his peaceful and cozy solarium in the home he shares with his wife Caitlin in Westminster West.

"It was called Earth, the Goldilocks Planet. It was the story of Earth but was written in a way that was much more evocative than the standard scientific way of presenting Earth's development."

His caring eyes shine, telling the story of how he was led to create the Earth Story calendar that he leafs through as he speaks.

The creation of the Earth fills Adair with wonder, a wonder he wanted to share in a special way -- scientific yet poetic in nature.

With the help of friends he was able to design the calendar, raise the money necessary to pay for the images used in it and print it.

"I don't know if anyone has done this, telling a story in a 12-month format," said Adair, his brown eyes refracting the calmness of the soul within.

He combed through thousands of images to find the 12 representing each month of the year -- from a supernova, to mitochondria, to elephants, to a little girl peering at the camera from behind a tree with golden sunshine seeming to set afire the leaves on the ground.

"Science has a tendency to present this material in very deadening language, and it's especially notable when they talk about the universe," said Adair, sitting on a simple sofa, surrounded by house plants, the kind of welcoming place that makes visitors feel instantly at home.

"They talk about the birth of the universe and they call it the Big Bang, and that is a very inaccurate description of what it is," he said. "When you hear Big Bang, you think of an explosion. Of shrapnel."

Adair insists describing the birth of the universe as a big bang is "deadening" and "not even accurate."

"An apt description is the ‘Great Radiance,'" he said with the passion of his beliefs rippling just beneath the surface of his lucidity and confidence.

"It was not an explosion -- with an explosion you have material exploding into something," his stillness belying the enormity of the vision. "It's an unfurling of a single multifaceted energy event."

The nature of words and language and how we express ourselves is integral to this vision of the universe, said Adair.

"So science is unveiling these mysteries and magic, but it continues to use this deadening language," he said. "I recently heard a Peruvian shaman say language is fundamental to our experience of reality. So the way that language is used is of real importance. The way I wrote this story is in a language that we can develop a connection with."

In that same vein, Adair said calling the glue of the universe Dark Matter is a disservice to the reality of its true nature.

"It's not dark -- it's invisible," he said. "What it does, this material, it forms a halo around the galaxy. It holds the galaxies so they can form themselves and then allows them to give birth to the stars."

Caitlin came up with a new term for it: "placental field."

"Our science talks about it in these flat terms," said Adair. "But to know that our galaxy is held in this halo, this field, is quite a revelation."

Telling the story of the creation of the universe and all that predated the emergence of human life on Earth in a language that is alive became the motivation for the calendar he holds in his strong and well-worn, yet elegant, hands.

Like the story of the calendar, Adair's is the gestation of a man from an almost scientist, to a philosopher, to a student of Buddhism, to working for Greenpeace -- what he called "a continued deepening of wanting to know what's going on."

About 10 years ago, he and his wife settled into Westminster West home. For several years, they offered the house and land as a retreat and a workshop space on such topics as Nonviolent Communication.

They met in 1987 at Omega Institute in Rhinebeck, N.Y.

"The energy we're in now is a resting energy, but creativity is coming out in different ways," said Adair. "The calendar is the first expression of it."

To make ends meet, they are both housecleaners.

"Our lives here are involved with simplicity, beauty and meditation," said Adair. "Housecleaning allows us the space to have those things."

The first time Adair ever did housecleaning was during a 14-month stay at a Zen Buddhist monastery.

"Little did I know that that first experience would become a profession," he said. "It's interesting how these things turn out."

He laughed gently.

"I call it Zen Housecleaning."

Part of the inspiration behind the calendar was a mathematical cosmologist -- Brian Swimme -- who Adair says is a scientist with the heart of a poet.

"It was inspirational to hear him give his take on the developing stories of science," said Adair. "To show that science could be unveiled in such a rich manner is a remarkable achievement."

And then there is Thomas Berry, a Catholic theologian who said that yoga is the science of the East and science is the yoga of the west.

"Yoga means ‘uniting with the source,'" said Adair, and while science is a way of connecting with the source, the language of science deadens the wonder of it all.

"I think there is a grief at the heart of science," he said. "I think there is some discontent and dissatisfaction. Even while it is discovering these mysteries and magic, it always returns to deadening metaphors."

To underlie his contention, he says the story of life on Earth is the story of the Earth falling in love with the Sun.

"When a person falls in love, what's our feeling?" he asked. "United and nourished. And this is what happens to the Earth. It is a link. A joining. Of the Earth and the Sun. And what comes from it are all the green plants and the animals that eat them."

The creation of the calendar was like that, nourished by his love and united by his vision of how the universe and the Earth came to be.

"It's a heart offering," said Adair, and presents science in a language that is both accurate and beautiful.

"It enables a wider identity for ourselves," he said. "An Earth identity, if you will. By having access to this larger identity, we can become less enmeshed in political and psychological and economic stories, which cause a lot of unhappiness and suffering. This larger identity is an avenue to come into the fullness of what we know we are."

For Adair, the calendar is his expression of that fullness, and just as with the long story of how the calendar came to be, Adair is philosophical about what the future holds in store.

"We'll see what happens next with it."

To learn where you can purchase the calendar, visit earthstorycalendar.com.

Becky Karush is a regular contributor to the Reformer. To suggest people for this column,
write to her at reformer.ourneighbors@gmail.com.