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Sleeping Under the Stars
Remember to look up at the stars and now down at your feet. Try to make sense of what you see and wonder about what makes the universe exist. Be curious.
– Stephen Hawking
For reasons irrelevant to this story, two nights ago Larry and I could not sleep in our bedroom. So we spent the night sleeping under the stars, on the deck, just outside the sliding door.
The house we currently live in is built on hillside, so when you walk in the front door the house is level to the ground, but by the time you get to the far left side of the house where our bedroom is, the deck is just hanging on the side of the house with a lot of space under it. Standing on the deck, we look at out at the tops of trees, not the trunks.
The deck is long enough to be a bed but not as wide as our usual queen bed. It’s big enough, though, for two people who like each other and like to be cozy.
We happened to have two organic latex mattress toppers that a client gave me because she couldn’t tolerate them, but they are fine for us. We piled them on top of each other on the deck with old cotton zippered sleeping bags from Larry’s childhood Boy Scout days and snuggled in for the night. Though it’s still summer during the day, the nights are cold here because the fog comes in, so we needed sleeping bags—one below and one on top—and body warmth.
We didn’t have a TV out on the deck, so we talked. We talked. It’s not that we don’t talk, but just having that available time with no distractions, we talked more deeply, as we love to do.
Lying on my back I could look up at a little patch of sky between the house on one side and the silhouettes of trees on the other.
It had been a very long time since I looked at the night sky for any length of time. There was no moon since it is just starting to wax—a “moonlet” Larry said—and we live out in the country so there are no city lights. So I was able to see the stars quite clearly.
I could see there were constellations, but couldn’t recognize them which made me feel like I was missing a piece of primal information that humans used to know when we oriented our time to sun, moon, and stars instead of clocks and calendars and GPS.
I slept well, then woke up with the sky still dark and just laid there, looking at the stars and listening to the wind rustling the leaves in the treetops.
I noticed that I felt a peace and connection with all Life that I don’t feel when my body is in the house. Even though the house was right next to my body, I was in the larger space of night. Lying there in the immensity of night, all the cares of the day were gone.
And my eyes adjusted to the darkness of night. Without electric lights, I could see so well I didn’t reach for my flashlight to get up and go in the house to the bathroom. Yet, after only two minutes of industrial bathroom light, I couldn’t then see in the natural darkness as I had been able to before. In contrast to the bright artificial light, that same space that I could see before was now pitch black.
The next morning I was telling Larry about my experience and he asked, How long has it been since you slept under the stars?”
I paused to consider that.
“Fifty years,” I said, “And yet, here are the stars...every night.”
Larry laughed. “You know the world doesn’t disappear just because you close the door/“
I turned on the flashlight to make notes about the above and when I turned it off, I couldn’t then see the stars.
I mentioned this to Larry and he said, “They will come back. They are always there.”
They are always there. While that was an obvious statement, it was also very profound. The stars are always there, it is my ability to see them that changes.
“We are beings of life,” I said, “Living in the world of life every day. We just don’t see it."
Satisfied with that realization, I went back to sleep.
I woke up just before dawn and watched the sky as the light began to change the color of the horizon, first light blue, then pink and orange. Off to the east, the light was coming, but overhead the sky was still black and filled with stars. It was amazing to watch this transformation as the sun got closer and closer to rising above the horizon. And then birds started flying overhead. And then I heard birds singing to me and all the human sounds of a town coming alive in the morning.
Like the stars becoming visible every night, the sun comes up every morning in this spectacular inch-by-inch transformation of the sky, and yet, we don’t see it! It’s there every morning and we don’t look!
I noticed that morning that I was experiencing Life by being IN life. My body was right there with the sky. I was having a direct experience of eyes-on-the-sky. Not looking out the window, not checking the weather report on my cell phone, but me, myself, looking at the sky. I woke up IN the weather and observed it and sensed it with all my senses.
There was such a rush of experience of that moment, of all the physical sensations but also awareness of being IN life, where I belong.
The next night we still couldn’t sleep in the room. It was foggy to I couldn’t see any stars with my eyes, but I knew they were there and that I was there in Life.
Many years ago I realized that I am a spiritual being with a mind and a body. This morning I realized that I am a spiritual being living in the whole of life, a spiritual being with a mind and a body and a planet and a universe.
I love this.