I make a point of doing that most nights. Several years ago (again while walking the dogs, but back then it was two…) I looked up and realized that I couldn’t remember the last time I had studied the sky — night sky, day sky — for more than a few seconds to judge the weather. It shamed me. There is much that is marvelous to be seen in our sky, and none of it mundane. Ever-changing; always glorious.
At any rate, I looked up at the stars and thought about how so many of them are “old friends.” The Big Dipper was the first constellation I learned to find. Orion’s Belt calls to me like home. Cassiopeia. Canis Major (and Minor). I thought about how many are unnamed in my head (not that names matter to THEM). I wondered how many were already dead and gone, burned out, their glory a memory of light sent across the galaxy. I wondered what the sky would look like long after I’m gone. There’ll be new stars, new constellations, new names.
And I will not be here to know them.
I started to cry. Not because I fear death. (I don’t know yet whether I fear death or not.) I cried because it’s all so amazing, all so beautiful and incomprehensible and awful (the original meaning — full of awe; reverential; when and why did we change that word to mean something terrible?). I cried because I will miss it.
So I told the sky that, standing out in my yard talking to the stars. I will miss you. I will miss your glory. Your fierce storms and burning sun. Your kind showers and gentle sunshine. Your snow and clouds and ice and comets and wind and all of it. I look out the window of my office across stone walls and fields and woods and I know at the deep heart-root of my soul that I love it.
I need to remember this feeling. I need to carry it with me daily. Take it out and look at it daily. And not forget.