I remember visiting my grandparents in Kansas when I was young. Nighttime in that rural part of the state defined darkness, and I’d get lost in the infinite wilderness of the heavens overhead. It was like staring up into something that had no top; it was like staring into infinity. When I was a little older, I’d crawl out onto the roof through my brothers’ bedroom window to watch the night sky fill with stars.
Today it’s harder to find an area dark enough to really see the stars in the night sky. There is so much polluting artificial light that deprives us of that intimate relationship with the nighttime sky. I worry that my children, instead of wishing on a star, will just wish they could see a star. How sad this makes me. The night sky and stars have always been such a powerful source of inspiration, reflection, discovery, and jaw-dropping wonder. What will be lost to us without this celestial muse?
I'm not a very talented stargazer, but I can locate a few constellations: Ursa Major, Ursa Minor, the North Star—what WD Wetherell calls a celestial lighthouse set in an immense and lonely sea. I can find the great winter hunter, Orion, by looking for his belt. But mostly, I just like to lose myself in the inconceivable dimension overhead. Just a few hours ago, I was standing in my driveway in the dark during a brief clearing between storms, gazing up at the stars. And this morning, awe and inspiration linger, filling my heart, left over from last night. There is hope.