“Star light, star bright, first star I see tonight, I wish I may, I wish I might, have the wish I wish tonight.”
Last week I stood outside the Lowndes County Courthouse with about 100 people waiting for the cosmic phenomenon, the solar eclipse. I wondered if it weren’t for the media if I would have known anything about it. I wondered if, instead of being outside, I’d be inside, maybe glancing out the window at descending darkness. Instead of thinking a dragon might be devouring the sun, I’d be wishing I had brought an umbrella. Then sunshine would pop out and I would think, oh good, I won’t need an umbrella.
I started thinking about our world and how nice it was for about two minutes not to think about it, or maybe think beyond it. I looked up “world.” The world is the earth, it’s countries, it’s people and natural features, like “Save the world.”
The eclipse was bigger than the world, so I looked up “universe” — “All existing matter and space considered as a whole; the cosmos. The universe is believed to be at least 10 billion light years in diameter and contains a vast number of galaxies … ”
Lately I’ve been thinking about the sky, “the region of the atmosphere and outer space seen from earth.” The sky I can handle; I can look right at it and it won’t hurt my eyes. Every night I walk in the night looking for kittens and finding spider webs. Sometimes a heron shrieks, a deer snorts or a coyote yelps in the distance.
Barbara Brown Taylor’s book, “Learning to Walk in the Dark,” is about darkness. I’m learning about and considering my thoughts on the dark. We’ve been taught a lot of bad things about darkness by our culture, and not all of them are true.
Remember when parents said, “Come inside, it’s getting dark” or “Don’t be out after dark.” In my neighborhood, no one ever wanted to come in because it was dark. It meant games were over and time for your bath.
In her book Barbara tells a story of a visit from an 8-year-old she had known her whole life. It was a bright moonlit night when she invited Anna to walk down the hill behind the house to the chicken house. Still, Barbara took a flashlight and Anna followed. She spoke to Anna, but Anna didn’t answer. She wasn’t there. Up the hill she found Anna sobbing, immobilized by fear of the dark, sitting “on the wet grass on a beautiful moonlit night.”
As many are, Anna had been taught to stay inside with doors locked, lights on and given a nightlight to sleep by. Barbara suggests, ” … walking in the dark takes practice.”
I also learned an incredibly obvious fact. The stars are out all the time. It’s the light of the sun preventing us from seeing them. The common phrases “the stars are coming out,” “no stars out tonight,” had led me to assume they “come out.” They don’t.
Choose your time and place, but take a chance and step out into the dark of night. It’s not scary. It’s beautiful, it’s peaceful, it’s real.
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