What do you see when you look in to the sky at night?
|I am a traveller. I have seen the Earth from the sky, patchwork fields stretching for miles, pinprick ships on an ocean corkboard. I have seen rolling azure waves curl across endless pale sands, reached out to touch dazzling fish slipping alongside a reef, wandered amongst crumbling buildings handed down through generations and civilizations, climbed mountain pathways never tainted by the wheels of a vehicle – but of all the things I have seen, there is one which may be the most noteworthy, the most beautiful, or perhaps which stands out in my mind because it was so unexpected.
It was in Canada, Ontario, The Lake of Bays – Rat Bay, to be precise. A couple of hundred kilometers North of Toronto, where the trees grow vast and tall, moose lumber indifferently across the highway and the rain, when it falls, comes down in sheets giving you the impression of being in a rain forest.
I arrived at around six o’clock, local time, after my first ever long haul flight from London, England – too excited, naturally for my brain to realise it should have been five hours later and the world shrouded in darkness. My friend Jen, husband Ed and her parents in law made excellent hosts in their lakeside chalet and the wine and conversation flowed as the brilliant sun descended to make way for the night sky.
As the party was wrapping up, the dishes washed and the brandy glasses came out, Jen - a keen photographer decided she might like to try and photograph the stars. We headed down the path to the little beach by the lake – it must have been gone midnight by that time. Jen carried her tripod and the camera (I might have helped but I was probably a little tipsy…) There was a little wooden jetty to walk along which jutted out in to the water – and that’s when I looked up and saw them.
You might think I mean that I looked up and saw the night sky, with stars shining in it, just like one does almost every night.
But I only saw stars.
More stars that you could imagine, more than you could count with every second you had left on the planet. There were stars behind stars, and more stars behind that. There were stars in the spaces between other stars, fainter stars in the wake of brighter ones. The sky glowed like a dark canvas covered in a billion tiny nightlights, in every direction, everywhere you looked they were there. I had never seen the night sky like that, never seen it look so stunning. Jen and I lay on the jetty and looked up at them. Counting stars.
Back in England I often look up in to the sky at night to look at the stars, picking them out one by one. I usually like to see if I can spot The Plough (or, as they call it in Canada, The Big Dipper) but now I know that all that blackness in between isn’t just blackness, it is really stars.
I just can’t quite see them.
(Written for a Newsfeed Challenge based on the song “Counting Stars” by One Republic)