It was a cold January night in a remote area of the Colorado mountains last weekend, and I was lying in bed, wide awake. It was dark, of course, but darkness at our cabin is not like city darkness. It is a darkness that makes sure you know it is there, thick and heavy. If I get up and don’t turn on a light, the darkness wraps around me, disorients me, and even frightens me a little.
I gave up on sleep and lay there looking out the window. I saw stars, stars that always seem only distant relatives of the stars we glimpse at home. These stars form a dense canopy of jewels that is breathtaking in its beauty. I’m always saddened to know that they are mostly invisible to an urban sky.
It was too early to get up, so I just continued watching the stars. There are worse things to do at 3:00 a.m., though I knew from past experience that I shouldn't think too hard about those stars. But I couldn't help it. Where are they? How many of them are there that we can't even see? What about the planets and solar systems and who-knows-what-else that is out there? Why is it all there? Who else is there? Who are we? What is life, anyway?
I started to become overwhelmed by my own insignificance, and my mind couldn't take it anymore. I made my way to the kitchen to turn on a light and make a cup of coffee. I sat down to read, trying to distract myself from unsettling questions brought up by the universe.
After awhile, the universe sent gifts. I looked outside, and the mountains and aspen trees had become black silhouettes, highlighted by the soft glow of the sun starting to rise. Soon pink and gold streaks appeared above the mountains, melting across the sky. In the distance, three moose lumbered across the meadow.
The aspens were still. The sky was clear. Life was good.
Whatever this world is, wherever it is, I’m glad to be part of it.