My family went camping this past weekend. Far away from the city’s lights, the night sky was inky black. We got lucky with a cloudless night, and the stars were popping out of the sky.
The kids had (finally) fallen asleep in the camper, and my husband and I got to sit out by the dwindling campfire and stargaze. There had been a meteor shower earlier in the week, and maybe it was residual meteors still flying around, but we saw 6 shooting stars! Some were quite bright and covered some distance before sparking out.
It got me thinking: there’s a likely chance that every night while I’m sitting on the couch in front of Netflix (or, more likely Disney+ for Hamilton!), there are shooting stars lighting up the sky above my house. While I’m doing the dishes, cleaning up the kids’ toys, washing up, reading my book, going to bed: celestial beauty flying around overhead.
It’s so easy for life to feel humdrum, to fall into a groove, and think that nothing special is happening. Even when things are good, the routine sets in quickly. Especially now, when everything seems negative (the pandemic, a deeper cultural reckoning of racism, Trump, the upcoming election etc), it can be easy to forget the beauty that is all around us. When really, it’s flying by overhead every night. We just need to take the time to look up.
I remember, back when I was young and cool and got to travel the world during college, I went SCUBA diving in Fiji. A whole new world was opened up to me. I felt like an intruder on another planet or in a magical new dimension. I was spying on a huge school of fish that turned and encircled me in a mesmerizing dance to the music of the stars. My astonished eyes roamed over the most intricate, delicate sculptures of coral that burst out in huge fanned formations from large rocks and underwater canyons. I almost gasped and lost my life line when one of the Fijians pointed out some coral that changed color when “tickled” by agitating the water around it. For deep sea companions, there were fish colored with a rainbow paintbrush, sea cucumbers, and electric blue starfish. I stood on the ocean floor at 15 meters below the surface and gawked like a tourist.
Millions of people will go their entire lives without ever experiencing the ocean depths the way I did. That complete oblivion strikes me as profound. Here was this entire world that I had never known existed. All this wonder and beauty and music had been there every day, and I was totally unaware.
The world is still a mess. Pain and evil still exist, and at the same time, we can try to see past the suffering to an underwater world of wonder and joy. Signs of beauty and love are all around us, hidden in the obvious, buried under the daily grind. I feel it in the sunshine on my face and a soft breeze while walking from my car into work. I hear it in my children’s giggles, the rustling of the wind in the trees, and the wind chimes from my neighbor’s porch. I smell it in the spring lilacs, in smoke from a campfire, in my baby’s soft skin.
Beauty, joy, humor, peace, love. They are always present somewhere. Sometimes, it’s as simple as taking the time to look up.