Tuesday, May 27, 2014

fountains of eternal light

All about us was the extraordinary beauty of the sea-fire and the glittering stars overhead ... The moment was utterly timeless.
--A Severe Mercy, Sheldon Vanauken

One night at Seabrook, we went out late to the beach. It was probably around eleven o'clock. The sun was well-past its setting, and the stars had overtaken the sky.
We made our way down the dunes to the sand.
There, far from the lights and the noise of our daily world, we found a large expanse of darkness.
The soft and springy sand under our feet was only disturbed by the gentle lapping of the sand and the night wind cutting across the shoreline.
All of a sudden:
I walked into a star-field.
My mouth dropped in an unceremonious gaping.
I know that light pollution blocks out so many stars from our view, but it's one of those things you just Learn To Deal With. As I looked out into the night sky above the beach, I didn't want to learn to deal with light-polluted skies anymore.
For there, covering the entire dome of the sky, was a vast, endless, mind-boggling expanse of constellations. And between the constellations, stars that flickered peacefully in the silky sky.
It was as though outer-space, usually civilly hidden by the comforting veil of the atmosphere and pleasant cerulean of the daytime, had invaded earth's boundaries. I am here, the night sky seemed to say. Undeniably, uncomfortably here. You cannot forget me.
It is so sad, I thought, that this night sky, which humans have seen for ages and eons is now cut off from us by all our own lights.
When the ancients, the medievals, and even perhaps, the hearty Victorians talked of the night sky, they all meant the same thing: that heart-stopping expanse of wonder that hangs above our heads each evening.
How differently we might live if every night we were confronted with such a daunting image of mystery and awe.
As we walked along the beach, our eyes adjusting to the thick night of the sand, and the bright lights in the sky, we turned our eyes to the waves of water hitting the shore.
The waves were glowing.
The phosphorescent algae that lives inside the sea was riding the foamy waves to shore.
As they landed, they left constellations on the sea-shore that mirrored the galaxies of stars overhead.
I walked along the banks of the eternal ocean, dancing on the constellations underfoot, mimicking the great dance of stars overhead.
I sat on the welcoming sand, with my feet close enough to the starry surf to catch a few constellations on my toes.
In front of me was the dark ocean, whose cold expanses spread out to the horizon, until there they met the dark night sky, and bled upwards into the dome of ancient lights.
It was a seamless garment of eternity.
In that moment, there was really nothing but ocean and sky--I had reached the limits of the human world, of human understanding.
I felt so small, just one girl standing on the banks of the cold May ocean, confronted by the piercing vastness of space.
Confronted by a chilling picture of our own microscopic nature.
But I had never felt less lonely.
I was warmed by all the eternity that shrouded the scene before me.
Perhaps it is good, I thought, that I do not see the ocean kiss the galaxies every night.
Perhaps then, I would not, like Bonaventure, faint so keenly for your courts.
For, surely, I would half-believe that I was already there.

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