After I left O'Hare, I drove out of Chicago, then through farmlands and hamlets, until a futuristic skyscraper loomed on the horizon—Fermilab.
Scientists took me down into the buried accelerator, a subterranean ring, 3.9-miles around, where they crashed protons into anti-protons, to study the debris.
That's how physicists here discovered the "top quark."
I had a day rife with bosons and gravitons, gluons and photons, and chalkboards covered with equations—finally I had spinning head syndrome. So I went outside, taking a break.
Sunshine, and a tremendous gabbling of waterbirds.
Fermilab's accelerator generated tremendous heat, which went up into a surface pond to radiate off into the atmosphere. Always warm, steaming even in January, that pond became a heaven for ducks and geese.
I wandered off to look at the lab's approximately one-thousand acres of reconstituted tall-grass prairie. Something moved behind those thick grasses, tall as a basketball player, and the grasses parted—I gazed at the enormous head of a bison.
Fermilab maintains a herd of bison, currently 32, with little bison born annually, aiming to preserve a bit of the ancient prairie.
So, under my feet, subatomic bits of energy whizzed and collided. Down there, I suppose, and in the skyscraper, our future understanding of reality's underpinnings is evolving. Up here, I'd stepped back centuries, to when giant grasses covered the prairies, and vast herds of bison roamed.
After all that, heading back to Chicago to catch my plane, I found I'd lost my rental car in the lab's huge parking lot. I had to enlist security guards in a patrol cruiser to drive me around until I found my wheels.
There's meaning in all that, I think. Someday, maybe, I'll figure it out.