“Can you believe that we are looking into the tails of galaxies? That’s what they are, right?” I walked a few paces ahead of Sarah and Ty as I listened to them marvel at the sky. We trudged through the damp vineyard, our boots belching as they moved in and out of the thick mud. It was almost easier to navigate our path by sound than by sight that night. The moon had somehow disappeared; perhaps she hid behind those ubiquitous clouds that brand our Pacific Northwest winters. Whatever the case, it made for fantastic stargazing. Millions of miles away, they glisten far brighter than any distant city lights we could still make out.
“Sometimes when I look up at the stars, I stop thinking. It’s just—too big.”
I grinned as I eavesdropped on their wonder-filled exclamations. It occurred to me that anything anyone ever says about the beauty of the stars usually sounds trite to me. But as my mind wondered off, I realized that this wasn’t really the case this time: the sky did look absolutely incredible from where we stood. And it was just too big. There was something about the stars that night that was more beautiful than I could grasp—too beautiful, more incredible than I had remembered them ever seeming before.
It had been nearly a year since I spent any significant amount of time back in the Seattle area. Between full-time studies and summer school, and a handful of part-time jobs to juggle at any given time, there was not much vacation in the last year. Not much time for stargazing. So I wondered if the stars looked brighter because it had been so long since I looked at them from outside the buzzing Northeastern urbanscape I now call home.
And then, I wondered if it had simply been so long since I looked up at them from anywhere. Just as distance makes the heart grow fonder, perhaps my leave from stargazing afforded this momentary, cosmic bedazzlement. Maybe the stars weren’t really that beautiful; they were simply more striking that night because they were more foreign than before. Simple enough.
Then, I wondered whether they are always this breath taking, yet I just shrug off the wonder of the stars as a justification for my own narrow-sightedness. What if they are always shining like this, and I just don’t raise my gaze high enough to see them? Maybe the stars are this brilliant in Boston too, I thought to myself, and I just haven’t been looking up as often.
Our muddy path opened up to a look-out with a few benches. Shivering a bit as the nighttime breeze encircled us, I sat down on the damp wood and reclined onto my back. My shoulders relaxed and opened against the hard surface beneath me. And it was silent for sometime. And I stopped wondering why all of us were staring up at the most amazing scene of stars.