Star Light, Star Bright

Opening the door and stepping onto the back deck on a clear, cold winter night feels like falling into a universe of stars for the first time – such is the wonder. While I am told that on the clearest night the eye beholds perhaps as many as 2,500 stars, I feel certain that there are tens of thousands of glittering jewels – all indistinguishable to my unaided sight. I am mesmerized by the gradual appearance of more and more layers.

Some years ago on a summer night I stood at the edge of a cabin porch, surrounded only by mountains on every side, and the pitch darkness that creates shivers of appreciation. I toasted the skies’ magnificence with a glass of wine. “Look,” I shouted a bit too loudly, “see the next whole layer appear.” My friend, thinking I was a bit knowledgeable about astronomy, got caught up in the excitement said, “The nextal layer? Where?”  The “nextal” layer drew me from awe to adulation.

I know enough to wonder at a light – several thousand pinpoints of light traveling through the vacuum of space at the speed of 186,000 miles per second for a span of at least four years. Some star bursts of energy have continued to shine for billions of years. I cannot begin to wrap my head around the power of light.

This winter night I pondered whether each point of light is as distinct as each snowflake, as nature has a propensity for diversification. Indeed, I read that the colors of Betelgeuse and Arcturus are cool red and Vegas burns a hot white. Astronomers have a range of color categories. There are varying degrees of brightness; the luminosity we see is dependent on the distance from us. The distinct size determines the giants and the super giants. And yet our eyes are trained to the sameness – it’s a star. Unless, of course, we are talking about Hollywood, and then the star is a standout.

Origin and design form the unity of the stars. At the core they are pulsing bodies creating energy, the results of the collapse of a nebula and dense heat that produces nuclear fusion. A new star is born. When stars explode as supernovas, dispersed elements release the building blocks of life through the universe – hydrogen, helium, carbon, calcium, iron, sodium, chloride, silicon… What is there about the twinkling star that doesn’t create wonder?

Diamond in the sky. Orion’s Belt. Big Dipper. Great Bear. Water Carrier. I can only make out the simplest patterns of constellations, but imagine the millions of tales told by sailors, settlers, wanderers, poets, mystics – trying to make meaning of the heavens. Light blankets our darkness with more than joy; stars emanate life. In this reality I discover a Divine plan.

The Universe stimulates the ‘zest for being’ and provides the nourishment which are transformed into Love of God.”

Teilhard de Chardin “My Universe”