as the year winds down,
the merry-go-round sits still,
the Earth keeps spinning
As the year 2011 winds down like a wobbling top, the Earth continues to spin on its axis as it circles the Sun, the Sun continues to orbit the center of the Milky Way Galaxy, and the spiral arms full of stars continue to rotate while the whole galaxy turns like a child's pinwheel in space.
The playground at the tiny park in tiny Salem, Iowa, boasts a see-saw set and a merry-go-round, not surprising since nearly a fourth of the population of 464 are under the age of 18. The steel spokes on the carousel have been repainted in primary colors, though the paint on the hub and the rotating wooden platform has weathered away to freckles and streaks. Someone has added a yellow happy face to the blue-over-white axle. It's good to see such a simple form of outdoor entertainment still making the rounds.
I am hanging onto one of the bars and pushing to get the platform turning, running as fast as I can in the worn dirt groove around the perimeter, then jumping on and clinging to the bar for the whirling ride. Close to the edge, I feel the exhilarating centrifugal pull trying to fling me off and I tighten my grip. Other children jump on until the platform is completely full. I observe that those in the middle are turning slower than the ones on the outside, an experiential lesson in physics for a child in the garden of children. When the merry-go-round slows down enough to hop off, I am standing still but the world is spinning around me. Many years later I learn that the sensation of dizziness is due to the inner ear going into a frenzy when it doesn't know where you are in space.
Of course, we're all on a giant carousel spinning in space, some of us closer to the center than others.