I awoke before dawn. A breeze swept through the open window as I lay snug under the sheet. Outside, all was quiet. Though tempted to linger, I knew it was time for the rendezvous. So I arose, tiptoed downstairs and stepped outside into the darkness. I walked the short distance to the Pinellas Trail. The last-quarter moon hung above the horizon, its light guiding my steps. Glittering like eternal diamonds, stars dotted the heavens above.
Reaching my destination, I unhurriedly began to scan the clear sky. Orion the Hunter dominated the east. The red planet Mars blazed directly overhead. Jupiter shone like a beacon on the horizon.
Then, as I turned toward the North Star, a brilliant meteor suddenly streaked across the sky. A thrill of excitement surged through me.
Since childhood the stars have intrigued me. Many are old friends. No matter where I am or what my circumstances, I can count on my stellar friends.
Etched in my mind are magical star-gazing moments:
Meteors flashing above a crescent moon in the Blue Ridge Mountains.
The stars of the Milky Way scattered across a transparent sky off the Bahamas.
The Southern Cross in a remote New Zealand village.
An early-morning meteor shower from Clearwater Beach.
To watch the stars in a crystal-clear sky, far from haze and lights, is to glimpse nature at its most magnificent. One feels as the psalmist who wrote:
When I look at the sky, which you have made, at the moon and the stars, which you set in their places _ what is man, that you think of him; mere man, that you care for him?
_ Psalm 8:3-4
Merely looking up may offer a new perspective; my daily worries often pale in light of the sweep and beauty of the universe.
Astronomy has enriched my life. I invite you also to sample the wonders of the night sky. Find a spot away from lights and obstacles. Get comfortable. Then let your eyes wander across the cosmos and lose yourself in wonder.
- Eric Houghton is a Dunedin lawyer.