Updated: Sep 21
When was the last time you looked, really looked up into a night time sky? When was the last time you saw the night sky dripping with diamonds and gems? When was the last time you felt like a child, believing that you need only stretch out your hands, to touch them?
Remember that time, perhaps long ago, when a shooting star surprised you, feeling goosebumps arise on your skin, as you shouted 'look!...as if you had seen the wonder of wonders (which you did).
The truth for many of us, is that we seldom look up, expecting to be surprised. The days of the ancient mariner charting by the constellations seem long past, a skill known today by relatively few.
Yet, in spite of our light polluted sky and light from laptops and iPhones that vie for our attention, even so, the sky holds wonder. The sheer enormity and mystery of the heavens cannot be denied or contained.
My friend Kate, while at a yoga retreat outside of Cusco, Peru, was drawn into its reflective rhythm. As the retreat lengthened, Kate's senses were heightened. She found herself slowing down, going deeper, looking within and without. Casting her eyes upward, she saw as if for the first time, the wonder and complexity of the night sky.
Such is the beauty of slowing down, creating space to listen, notice and respond. Able to see what we so often miss.
Barbara Mahany in her expansive book 'The Book of Nature', offers: 'Star science, it seems, is rather straightforward: hydrogen + helium, massively balled; nuclear fusion burns at the core. It all started with the Big Bang, 13.8 million years ago, when untold numbers of bits - think heavenly cinders - kabooms into the black canyon of space. The number of stars - more than a billion trillion. And the geniuses who measure such things, tell us that every minute on every square mile of turf, one ten thousandth of an ounce of starlight drizzles onto that little plot of earth. We humans and indeed all of creation is made up of actual stardust.'
Imagine. You and I are starlight.
Can I have a 'Holy Wow!'?
Edward Hirsch in this evocative poem, 'the Stars', writes:
'Like a bucket of milk flung into the air,
the stars surprise the sky.
Why else do sleepwalkers move toward the windows,
or old men pull flimsy lawn chairs
onto fire escapes or hardened criminals
lean sad foreheads to steel bars?
Because the night is alive with lamps!
That's why in dark houses all over the city
dreams stir in the pillows, a million
plumes of breath rise into the sky.'
~ excerpts from 'In Spite of Everything the Stars'
In Judaism, at the close of Shabbat, that once weekly command to take holy pause, to sanctify time outside of time, Jews are told to watch for three evening stars, and only then should the wick of the braided havdalah candle be kindled, and the spice box passed under our noses as we unfurl the blessings of the just - ended Sabbath and the holiness of a new week is unfurled.
Such is the invitation for all of us to 'take a holy pause' and like my friend Kate in Cusco, remember to look within and without. In looking inward and outward, we allow ourselves to be wowed, awed, humbled and grateful. The invitation is ours, slow down and be transported.
We are starlight. The very essence of creation is in us. And, if you are a Theist like me, that means too, that the very essence of the Creator, who set out this cosmic dance, rests within you and me too.
Try to wrap your mind around that.
With you on the journey ~ Kent Harrop
Note: Check out 'The Book of Nature: The Astonishing Beauty of God's First Sacred Text' by Barbara Mahany. Prepare to be wowed and inspired. And, stay tuned, for a virtual discussion group on 'The Book of Nature', that Kent Harrop will be hosting ( sponsored by Rolling Ridge Retreat and Conference Center rollingridge.org ), one Saturday morning a month, January - April 2024. Details and registration coming soon.