The more you look
On a clear skied night when the cold breath of winter is stilled and the world has slowed, just a little, you might look up and see the stars. You might take a deep breath and marvel. And you might stay there a minute, and then go indoors.
But what if you stay a little longer? What if you wrap up, stake out a spot under the heavens, and keep looking?
When I was nine my dad woke me in the middle of the night to go out and see the Hale-Bopp comet. I tiptoed past my sleeping younger sister, pulled my coat and boots over my pyjamas, and we let ourselves out of the back door into the garden. The darkness was deep, and quiet - all the streetlamps were out. And there it was, a bright burning streak across the Spring heavens. It had just passed perihelion and looked like a stretched, shining star, trailing light in its wake. I was transfixed.
In the years that followed, every now and then my dad would take me stargazing, just the two of us. He taught me the constellations; he explained the differences between spiral and disc galaxies. We would stand in damp fields, craning our necks in reverence at the sky.
One winter night in early 2005, we packed our telescope into the boot of the car and, as the sun went down, drove up into the Somerset hills. This time it was the whole family, plus our science tutor. We set up the telescope in an open space, just clear of the glare of the town. Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn were all visible in the night sky at once; we took it in turns to peer through the telescope, trying to make out Saturn's rings and the shade of the red planet. Between turns we just gaped upward, enjoying the spectacle with the naked eye.
The sky is full of wonder. The more you look, the more you see.
Skygazing fills me with happiness and peace. For something that should remind me of how small, how insignificant I am, it has a surprisingly opposite effect.
The more I look, the more I see. It's a simple approach I find to be of great value when I can't see what I need to, when I'm stuck and unsure. Sometimes I need to take time to observe more, to allow what's right in front of me to reveal itself naturally. Just as our eyes become accustomed to the dark and adapt to take in more light, our other senses, our emotional capacity, our empathetic qualities, can be opened to expansion. We just need to take the time to look more.
Photo by Sam Goodgame on Unsplash