Growing up on a farm in southern Australia, I grew accustomed to seeing a spectacular number of stars in the night sky. Often, after dusk, the dishes done and the nightly TV news on ABC consumed, I’d head out the screen door off the kitchen and stand on the edge of the verandah, my toes curling over its edge, the farm stretching out in front of me in the pitch black.
In summer, crickets would chirp. I’d feel warm air still rising from the dusty, dry earth. As I lifted my gaze towards the sky, its unfathomable enormity drew me in.
My perspective would start to warp, as if the stars were lifting me closer, sucking me in. Sometimes I’d lie down on the concrete of the verandah, or the warm gravel on the driveway, and let the stars carry me away. Sometimes I’d stay there for hours.
Later, living in cities and now the densely populated space of the Netherlands, I consider myself lucky to catch the moon rising, or a few stars pinned upon the blue. Sometimes, I find a star and stare at it until it ceases to feel like a pearl button on a dark velvet jacket, and its vast distance from me becomes palpable. It’s never quite the same as the daunting volume I experienced as a kid on the farm (which was in turn dwarfed by the luminosity of the night canopy when we went camping in the Outback). But I’ll take it.
What I’m chasing in those moments is a visceral reminder of my minuteness. The deep, immutable awareness that in the scheme of things I’m immaterial, and this whole thing (life, the universe, etc.) is far, far beyond my little human mind’s ability to fathom.
It’d be natural to expect that this sensation of being absolutely, categorically tiny in the universe would make me feel powerless and alone. Instead, when I tune into it deep enough, the stars connect me to
A belonging so deep and quiet and strong, it makes my soul hum
A not-knowing that makes me feel more safe, not less
An awareness of my powerlessness which empowers me
The truth that I am absolutely not in control, and that is how it is meant to be.
Recently, I’ve been mindful not to wait until I’m under a carpet of Australian Outback stars to feel this connection. And each time I feel it, and zoom out from the minutiae of daily life and into the cosmos, I feel less fear. More calm. It helps me to know that this connection is ever-present, day or night, rain or shine, on the New York subway or on an Aussie verandah. Few things give me such comfort.