Here’s a piece I wrote a while back about what we miss when we don’t get outside and look up at the night sky. A friend recently told me the story of their friends who came to visit from Calgary. They were staying with my friends on their farm in northern Alberta.
Before they went to bed, the guests from the city told their hosts, “If there are northern lights tonight, please wake us up no matter what time.”
My friend, Aline, woke up at 3:00 a.m. and glanced out her bedroom window. In the sky above the coulee danced bright green lights, extending upwards like glowing stairways to heaven. Quietly, she crept down the hall and stood outside her visitors bedroom door. She deliberated a long time before finally gently knocking.
As if awaiting the news, the enthusiastic city folk were wide awake. They donned their robes, my friends grabbed some blankets, and the four of them sat out in lawnchairs for a couple hours to watch anything better than television has to offer.
On a Sunday evening last week, I stood out on my front lawn with binoculars and my camera watching that beautiful, white moon grow slimmer and slimmer until, instead of fading away, she turned red before my eyes and camera lens. As I stood there shivering with wonder and from the night chill I thought, “Why don’t I look at the night sky more often?”
Then last Friday night a friend and I were enjoying a glass of wine on my front step. As we visited in the cool dark of evening, the stars twinkled above us against their inky purple backdrop. With the sky right there and unobscured by ceiling and roof, our conversation grew softer, more intimate. It felt like our words now had the attention of the night sky, and so those syllables better be sweet and worth speaking.
Hear me read this post:
After my friend left, I asked my husband to go for a nighttime walk. Yes, I realized it was cool, but sometimes – not often – I walk in 20 below temperatures. I reminded him gently that snow is just around the corner and that opportunities like this one are fleeting. The sky was blacker than it had been during my front step visit, and as we walked out of reach of the street lights’ glow, the sky grew darker and larger still.
We stopped for a moment along the railway tracks and under the spreading boughs of a row of old trees. We listened as the breeze moved the dying leaves, making them brush up against one another, to jostle and drift down to the asphalt. Autumn sounds. Halloween sounds, like the slow dance of skeletons. These sounds were precious, ones that I would’ve missed out on during time spent in front of the television.
It seems improbable, I know, but I think until that night when I saw it again, I had completely forgotten about the Milky Way! How sad. It’s worth considering that perhaps I’ve been spending way too many of my evenings in the basement on my elliptical trainer and not nearly enough out walking with the sky looking down on my progress, unhurried and refreshingly aimless. “Where are you going?” the moon might ask. I’d tell her, “Nowhere in particular.” The moon might smile and think, “How nice.”
The vastness of the night sky makes me feel insignificant in the most comforting way. I’m lucky to live in a village where there is very little light pollution to keep me from admiring the night sky. And yet, I don’t spend much time outside at night just enjoying the experience of night, the experience of being so small, a blonde bump on the earth’s surface. From the perspective of the stars, my problems are tiny and short-lived; my life, a breath; my existence, neither here nor there, but just maybe, in a way, everywhere.
Although I’m not one for resolving to act in any certain way, preferring to remain flexible, I think I’ll make a conscious effort to spend a bit more time under the stars and a little less under the glare of the pot lights recessed in my basement ceiling. This effort might just be worth it. After all, I’ve got nothing to lose, and the stars and the moon to gain.
Thanks for joining me tonight! Did you like what you read here? Consider following my blog so you don’t miss a post. It’s always good to spend time with you. ~ Lori