The Right Place at the Right Time

The sun is about to set. Red and gold streak out across the sky, like flying strands of hair. Light clouds scuttle along, driven by forces much more powerful than me. The wind -- it rustles through trees, bushes, and across my ears. It is the loudest yet quietest sound for miles. Compared to almost anywhere else, there is dead silence. Even no more than a few hundred feet from a large road, it’s peaceful, serene. The long, low hiss across the landscape relaxes me. At times like this, I think that I can feel something else here… but I wave that notion away with a quiet scoff. Still, there is something about this place that is different, that makes you calmer, more reserved, respectful. It’s something in the landscape. The towering trees, the view of the entire island, and the brooding hills towering behind me. I want to do nothing but absorb it all. In just a little while, it will be my favorite time of day.

The grass up here is tall, green, and vibrant. Most importantly, it’s soft and smooth. Unlike the grass down lower, it doesn’t scratch and bite, a dog trying to rid itself of fleas, when you lie down on it. So that’s exactly what I do. Softer than any feather bed. It’s heaven on Earth. I’m enjoying myself, maybe just a little too much, because a voice next to me calls, “Hey, come set up the tent! It’s almost dark, and do ya want to freeze?” The voice is deep, slightly reprimanding, but it still has a playful edge to it. “Fine, fine,” I grumble, and head over to where my partner in crime, a.k.a. Aidan, is wrestling with a couple of tent poles. My job is to hold the fabric down while Aidan sets the stakes and rocks. In short order, everything is ready. I head off a little ways with a few parting remarks to the effect of “Don’t let the tent blow over.” Aidan grumbles to the affirmative… I think.

Outside, it’s just turning dark. Soon, Venus appears. Then a few stars. Then more, and more, and more until the entire sky is blanketed with these bright, sparkling facets. They glitter and shine, more precious than any gem. The Milky Way is clearer than ever, a translucent white fog, mixed with a black that is darker than a cloudy night, but with occasional clusters of brilliance peeking out. It might be my imagination, but I can almost see orange, red, and blue in each star. Unbelievable how many there are. Hundreds of billions in our galaxy alone. Hundreds of billions in each other galaxy out there. Staring up, I feel like I could touch each and every one of these stars, reach out and pick them like fruit from a tree. But even if I could, I wouldn’t. They deserve to be seen.

Maybe, on some other planet, someone else is looking out at the stars. Maybe they’re thinking the same things I am. Maybe they’re just now realizing the beauty all around them. Maybe they are looking right to our little corner of the universe, and wondering if anyone is there, just like we are. Water is the universal solvent. It is necessary for life. But the stars are the universal equalizer. And I think that they’re just as necessary. That is why I feel sorry for people who live in cities. They are missing it all, too wrapped up in themselves to see the bigger picture.

Staring out into infinity is not a comforting feeling. It makes you realize just how small you are. Insignificant. Microscopic. Fragile. I guess I could sum up why I do it in one phrase: “Knowledge is not power. Knowledge of an object’s true identity just makes its beauty all the more startling and apparent.” I am trying to see the true nature of the universe, and in that maybe find myself. After all, we’re just parts of stars.

I could stay out here for hours, laying, watching, thinking. Eventually, though, it gets cold. So I head into the tent, to my lovely, warm, soft, furry sleeping bag. Aidan is already out cold, every so often letting out a faint snore. Chuckling softly to myself, I turn off the lantern and join him in dreamless sleep, already excited for an even bigger tomorrow.