Alone in the woods of Maine, halfway to my cottage, on a small barely occupied peninsula and in sight of the water, I paused for a moment to realize who I was and where, precisely, I found myself.
The sky was bright with stars. Every constellation burned with full force. No clouds, no mist, no haze, no light pollution obscured the entirety of the cosmos above my head. I saw the trail of the Milky Way, I saw red stars and blue stars, stars that twinkled and stars that blinked. I saw the speckled canvas of night, the whole universe for as far as my eyes could see — and far back into history.
Some of those stars are already gone, and I’m merely seeing their last fading echo.
People talk about the vastness of it all, and how insignificant they’re made to feel when they get any sense of the universe’s grandeur.
I felt breathlessly alive. I felt connected to the wind, to the seals and lobsters, the deer and the moose, the other planets and distant solar systems and enormous galaxies appearing to me as mere pinpricks of light.
The air carried a child, a galactic chill that served to excite my senses.
I saw the whole of everything. I tasted it on the air, felt it on my skin. I realized what was insignificant, but I also recognized unimaginable potentials, in me and in us and in everything.
I reached up to those stars, though I knew few by name and had, in my city lives, seen only a fraction of them. I whispered. Anything louder would’ve been a disturbance; anything less, a disservice. I made promises to the stars, a cosmic covenant, to find truth for my soul, to see, to breathe. I pledged myself to a universal symphony, though I’d only heard the briefest measure of it.
Then I fell to my knees and I cried. I mourned the mistakes I’ve made and the wrong paths I’ve taken. And in its soft, consoling voice, the universe reminded me I’d be someone else entirely if I’d not learned from those mistakes.
I’m still learning.
I need Van Gogh to show me again all the glory of the universe.
Note: I took the pictures below on that night in Maine. This is mostly true, if it truncates events of August 2011 (when I was in Maine) and events of August 2013 (which happens to be now).