Message from the Stars

The other night I was witness to a "shooting star" trailing through the sky. I put this in quotes as I am well aware that these fleeting moments of light dancing across the darkness are not stars romantically falling to their rest, landing in a pile at the end of a rainbow, or whatever other tales we are lead to believe. No, these moments that have caused shepherds to stop and ponder the universe, lovers to swoon, lonely hearts to sigh, and children to make a goodnight wish, are in fact directed by meteors rushing through the atmosphere at top-notch speed, spontaneously combusting in midair, then settling again into the form of dense, cold rock (that hopefully doesn't have plans of landing in your backyard). Nevertheless, the "shooting star" I spied the other night worked its magic on me: as it is prone to do, my mind wandered out into the darkness where there's space enough to mingle with new thoughts and reflections and welcome back memories from other starry evenings.

It was a perfect summer evening on Priest Lake in the mountains of Idaho that first awakened my thoughts to the message from the stars and brought me humility and wonder from light-years away. For it was on that night as I lay on the edge of the dock watching the slow spread of stars strengthen above me, that my thoughts reverted back to old teachings of physics and how the term "light-years" was coined because it literally takes years upon years for a stars' light to reach my waiting eyes on earth. Suddenly I realized that the light twinkling above was the oldest thing around me -- perhaps even older than the bending trees across the lake. In fact, that very moment of light existed in its present time so very long ago that as I sat at Priest Lake in my present time I had no way of knowing if that star had since leapt the scene and taken a romantic tumble from the sky leaving nothing but darkness. Perhaps the very light that I gazed upon was really just a memory of what used to fill the space? But if I can look at the "past" today, is it really the past? If my eyes were taking in the light at that very moment, no matter where or when the source of that light came, it existed in the present because it impacted my present surroundings (the reflection on the water, the lighted pathway up to the cabin) and me (my thoughts, my feelings, and now my present writing)! What a great illustration of how the past really can have an immediate impact on the present -- and the future. What a little time machine we have access to every night: this eternal conversation between the stars and earth reminds us that the past, present and future truly are interconnected -- even one and the same.

As with stars, so too in life: we never know what will be dark later -- what we won't be able to access or who won't be around any more. But it is comforting in the least to know that the light of yesterday still carries into tomorrow and can shine just as brightly for those who look up to find it.


  1. Have you ever read Pale Blue Dot, by Carl Sagan? Don't forget to have Gustav Holst's The Planets Op. 32 playing while you read it - they make you feel so small and powerless and unimportant. But trust me, it's a good feeling.

  2. Glad to see that Physics is "in your bones"! --dad

  3. No I haven't read it but I have played Jupiter from the The Planets a few years ago when I was in orchestra (I play violin, I don't think I told you that before). I'll look into the Pale Blue Dot - thanks for the suggestion!

  4. Yes, physics is in de bones, but I don't think my description of a "falling star" was very scientific... but that's ok. You get the point.

  5. Wow, so you love Physics? Don't miss Brian Greene's books ;)

  6. Well, my dad really is the one that loves physics (he's a physicist) but he's taught me to enjoy thinking, which includes physics -- but I wouldn't say I am skilled with applying actual physics.


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