The stoic week theme for today has reminded me of growing up always aware of the night sky, and how I would look at the stars, everywhere you put your eyes there were stars upon stars. I don’t know where I could go now to see a sky like that. I was taken to a Dark Sky site a few years ago, and it was nothing like the sky I remembered from my youth. Those stars really put things into perspective for me, and all my little growing up problems vanished into inconsequence. How much has the human race lost by hiding the stars? Does anyone remember when there was an earthquake and all the lights in Los Angeles were out, and people called up radio stations wondering what was wrong with the sky. People who in all their lives had never seen the beautiful night sky that Planet Earth is blessed with. Where I live now, from my window at night I have only been able to see the moon and bright planets. No stars. I miss even the impoverished view of major constellations I enjoyed in the backyard of my former home. It is so much easier to learn these lessons of stoicism if we can connect with the nature of the planet, if we can find a forest with huge trees, or a meadow buzzing with insects and bright with flowers, or, especially and “above all” the view of the universe in the dark canopy of the night sky. Light hitting the retina after journeying for hundreds, thousands, millions of years….
The little girl, walking slowly up the hill to school in the snow, observing meltwater running down the ditch. A fairyland, a miniature river with space for fairies. She tells herself stories all the way, imagining the lives of little people.
The old woman, walking briskly under a summer sun, observing flowers and grasses, hearing birds, seeing insects, trying to name and classify everything in this burgeoning natural world so full of wonder and mystery.
What is the difference between seven and seventy, except for decades of life, decades which seem to have leaked unnoticed through careless fingers, hours and days, months and years running down the drain of time, flowing eventually into the ocean of infinity from which they once emerged?
This morning, to beat the heat, I went out early for my walk. The overzealous maintenance crew has not been along the harbour trail recently, so the paved walkway is fringed with meadow flowers. I identified common vetch, oxeye daisy, red and white clover, common knapweed, birdsfoot trefoil, yarrow, two kinds of wild roses, blackberries in bloom, cinquefoil, common nightshade, coltsfoot leaves, ferns, various grasses, cattails, a tricolour field of lupins, musk mallow, various dandelion-like flowers which could include yellow goat’s-beard, wild lettuce and hawkweed, a small plant with clusters of tiny yellow flowers which I can’t identify. All around me hidden in the trees and shrubs was the rustle and twitter of birds although I only caught sight of one song sparrow and one goldfinch.
The thought came to me that this is an extraordinary burgeoning of life, somehow succeeding despite humanity’s best efforts to mow it down. Would the world become a different and better place if everyone spent time simply observing nature? Would we learn humility? I wish we could make every dictator or wannabe dictator, corporate bosses who only see money, women who more subtly exercise power for personal gain, all those whose greatest pleasure seems to be to control others and glorify or enrich themselves, I wish we could make them all spend time in nature, surviving only by their own wits.
And every child deserves to bathe in the riches of the earth. Generations have been denied this, one of our most basic needs. No wonder the human race is essentially insane and we struggle to regain our lost connections to the world.