Most nights, after the kids have nestled into bed and the kitchen is cleaned from dinner, I undertake an almost daily ritual. Grabbing the compost bucket from under the counter and donning my headlamp, I venture outside into the night to do some chores.
It’s a quick walk to the edge of the backyard — past the raised beds of the garden to the edge of the woods where our chicken coop and compost piles sit. Every once in while the shimmer of eyes in the beam of my light will catch my gaze or the rustle of brush and leaves will cut through the stillness. I’m reminded that I share this space with others.
I’ll toss the content of our compost bucket into one of the piles, grab a handful of straw to cap it with, and then top off the water and feed buckets in the coop (the kids have already grabbed the eggs).
It is then that I look up and behold the most amazing of sights: the night sky.
Since childhood, I’ve been awed and humbled by this celestial envelope that wraps around us; those pin-pricks of light taking shape and form to tell the stories of ancient conquest and love and wisdom; the lunar illuminations shining down to create subtle shadows of black and grey hues.
As I’ve gotten older, awe and humility have been joined by a reverence of sorts. A reverence for what lays beyond that relatively thin veil of atmosphere separating us from the rest of the great and unfathomable vastness of the – no, our – universe. For it is indeed our universe – ours to behold, to contemplate, to connect with and through to that which is greater than us.
The concept of inter-being allows us to understand that everything is everything; that all things are connected through not only the shared building blocks of life, but by our experiences as beings in this universe. When I’m outside gazing up at Orion high in the winter sky or Jupiter arcing over the tree line or the Big Dipper perched so perfectly above my kitchen windows, I feel such a tremendous connection to that vastness. It draws me in and wraps its celestial arms around me – almost as if to cradle my simple human form and give comfort to my passing earthly woes.
Quickly, such feelings give way to thoughts of who else might be out there staring up at their patch of sky and experiencing much of the same. Not necessarily those here on Earth, but those elsewhere in the universe – for I do not accept that we are alone in this journey. The numbers and odds are against it: Up to 400 billion stars in our galaxy; more than 80 billion galaxies estimated in the observable universe. All stars within this galactic patchwork having the potential for supporting planets where life – “intelligent” or otherwise – has manifested. The possibility of a multiverse layering around all of that.
It’s daunting, uplifting and mind-expanding all in the same moment.
For millennia, before we had so many things to distract us inside buildings, people were always gazing skyward – observing, learning, connecting and proclaiming. Stars and their movement across the heavens were the entertainment, the “reality shows”; one of Nature’s best lessons in the most amazing of classrooms. I wonder how different things would be if we all spent a bit more time losing ourselves in the night sky.
Here’s wishing you well as we gaze up at the stars together.
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