If it’s not already plastered everywhere that I frequent on the web, I live in Albuquerque, New Mexico. It’s a place that desert rats understand and those with a fear of land-locked places can’t comprehend. Since this is a tiny slice of what I love about my city, I won’t go into the innumerable things I love, but stick with one of the most powerful experiences you can have coming to the Q… the night sky.
To be fair, when you’re in the heart of the city, the sky is hard to see with all the sodium lights “oranging” up the sky. But it takes only a few minutes to drive to the foothills of our gorgeous Sandia Mountains to catch a glimpse of what sits in the heavens, and if you drive a little farther, let’s say, to the outskirts of Tijeras, you are looking on a majesty that is almost incomprehensible in its scope.
Our night skies are beyond words. From this little ripple in the fold of the Earth’s skin you can see the Milky Way as a broad swatch in the sky and all the galaxies and dust and glory that it entails. You can see shooting stars race across the sky, the brilliance of stars winking back at you, and you find yourself contemplating your small space in this grand universe… and you’re just looking at one arm of our galaxy. Many star-gazers find themselves out here with telescopes staring upward, looking even farther beyond.
It’s hard in our everyday lives to remember just how inconsequential our hustle and hurry truly is. In the grand scheme of things, it is milliseconds in the life of a universe so much larger than ourselves. We are like proteins on the surface of a cell in a body: so small, so insignificant, but still so important to the whole.
Yes, I’m a shameless sky watcher. I don’t know all the constellations, and in truth, I don’t want to know. I don’t want to see patterns in the skies, I want to look up every night and see the incomprehensible looking back down on me. I don’t ever want it to be normal or usual or plain… I want it to be awesome and inspiring and serve as a reminder to be humble yet strong, kind yet firm, thoughtful yet… thoughtful.
I don’t necessarily attach to any religious dogma, but when I look skyward at night, I can’t help but feel spiritual. I am part of something that goes beyond ancient, and I am made of the same stuff as the stars. I stop a moment to realize that we are only able to say the universe is 14.5 billion years old because that’s the farthest light we’re able to measure. That means what we consider old could be far, far older than what we say. It could be far, far larger than we can even fathom. Not to mention, we have no idea how many times before this same path has been walked before – if, in fact, the universe does expand and collapse, we could simply be the latest iteration in a long line of cyclical continuation.
The skies over this city brings me to a fractal understanding as well, as above, so below. Science has drawn up maps of the universe and when you look at the formations, it’s incredible just how much it resembles our very own neurons. Is it a stretch beyond reasoning to think that we are part of some much larger entity’s brain? When you contemplate the vastness of space above, then zoom in closer and closer to everything here on the planet Earth, you find that there is space between atoms… we are a living, walking, breathing replica of everything we look up to when we look into the stars. I can’t see life as a linear experience when everything around me points to the cycles of everything – living and non-.
I realize I’ve waxed far toward the philosophical here, but that’s a beautiful thing, when something that is free for every human being to see by just looking up can inspire such expansive thought and creative energy. I heard once that we are the universe trying to understand itself, and I believe it more and more. We’ve been given this time to live, to learn, to experience.
It’s the little things. I hope that all of you never lose the wonder and awe with what is above your heads and below your feet. There is majesty all around you and all you have to do is look. And, if you’re ever in Albuquerque, take a moment to see what I get the chance to see nightly. Our skies at night are some of the most beautiful in the world. Until you get here, however, don’t forget to look up and get inspired.