The Pledge Part III – The Planets

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by Adam Murie

I once skated from the Sun to Mercury and when I got there I could see Venus off in the distance. I rolled on to the Earth and thought the moon was cute as I sailed by. Mars looked similar to the Earth; Jupiter was amazing, you simply have to see it. It was the first time that I had noticed these planets and I made a pledge to myself then and there that I would one day walk all the way to Pluto.

What do you mean it’s not a planet? It’s still worth going to see and now’s the best time before it becomes too touristy. Ten years from now backpackers will be saying “You should have been here ten years ago.”

I’m a skater and a big fan of the skate-park down on the St Kilda foreshore. I love to cruise from one end to the other, banking on the sides just trying to flow. Near the entrance to the bowl there is a large spherical sculpture and as I come out of the park I like to use it as one end of my lap. Around the sculpture, back into the bowls and ramps and then out and around the sculpture again. At one point as I’m passing the sculpture I see a word on a plaque that simply states: Sun.

I suppose in a way it kind of looks like a bronze replica of the Sun. I re-enter the bowl, miss time a kick turn on the transition and fall hard. Slam time. All skaters follow a code: If someone slams they get some time to comprehend what has happened, some time to recover. It’s not very crowded and a guy who witnessed my poor coordination yells out “You OK bro?”

“Yep” I reply but I’m not OK. I’m winded and really struggled to get that word out. It’s not a good time to be answering questions. “Thanks for asking.” The second part of the code is that a fallen skater should get out of the way as quickly as possible. So I hobble back to the Sun and ask myself why I keep doing this shit. After reading the plaque I do some quick calculations and reason that I am in the presence of the longest sculpture in the world. I’ll explain how I decided that later but first I follow an arrow fifty-eight metres towards the beach and come across a stone pillar. Perched on top is an inverted metal cone with a tiny ball-bearing at the pointy end. The plaque tells me that the Sun is one billion times bigger than the sculpture next to the skate park and at this scale Mercury is about five millimetres across. Fifty metres towards the city I find Venus; over double the size of Mercury at 12mm; this is a replica, a scale model of the solar system. Could it be the coolest thing in St Kilda? Only a space nerd would think so.

I am baffled to realise that I have walked past this massive sculpture probably for years and never noticed it. Hell, I have skated around the Sun, using it to propel myself back into the skate bowl hundreds of times without knowing what was in my hands.

That was all years ago and today I’ve decided that I have procrastinated enough. Today I am walking all the way to Pluto. I set off from the Sun and pass all the planets previously mentioned and this task has wonderfully enabled me to grasp the concept of how close and far all the planets are to each other. The first four come in rapid succession, then Jupiter seems so far away, next Saturn is even further but still it is next to the Catani Gardens so within a short walk. All the while I am a little disenchanted because no one else seems to be aware that these planets exist.

The distance seems huge on the way to Uranus; it is one and a half kilometres from Saturn. It seems so lonely out here with no one to notice and no one to care. In fact it’s a theme that has kind of run through all the planets: I’m the only one who is noticing them. Every time I stop and read and look around in amazement, all the people around me continue running/walking/skating. Like me, until recently, no one seems to know that the longest sculpture in the world is right under their noses. And I think, what will Pluto be like? The most distant and remote (dwarf) planet in the solar system, so cold, so lonely, will anyone care?

Another kilometre and a half from Uranus to Neptune. I always kind of felt that the planets were a similar distance apart, that’s how it looks in most pictures I’ve seen. You know there would be differences but walking 30 metres from Mercury to Venus then three kilometres from Saturn to Neptune has given me a better understanding of the scale of things.

I continue on my lonely journey from planet to un-cared for planet and walk a further kilometre and a half to Pluto. Up ahead I see a crowd of people, children mainly and they all have strange neck ties on. Could it be that a religious cult of Pluto worshipers is paying homage to their god? It is the complete opposite of every other part of the sculpture. In fact I can’t even squeeze in to read the plaque. There’s group photos and selfies and “Wow, we made it to Pluto.” A scoutmaster speaks to attentive youngsters and educates them and I listen in on the class. It’s the end of their journey. They too have made the pilgrimage from the centre of the solar system. Nearby two seasoned backpackers are chatting and I eavesdrop in on their conversation. “Man, Pluto has become so touristy, you should have been here ten years ago.”

Days later I’m back at the skate park and notice another large spherical sculpture near the sun. It is much smaller than the sun but way bigger than all the planets. I read about it and it is in fact Proxima Centauri, our nearest neighbour star. The plaque tells me that it is in scale if you travel to Pluto then continue through the North Pole, all the way around the world through the South Pole until you return to the skate park. So the sculpture is in fact as long as the polar circumference of the Earth and at 40,000 kilometres it is the longest sculpture in the world and it starts right here in St Kilda.

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