“I f the stars should appear one night in a thousand years how would men believe and adore; and preserve for many generations the remembrance of the city of God which had been shown! But every night come out these envoys of beauty and light the universe with their admonishing smile.”
American essayist Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote those words in 1836 as part of his work Nature which explores human connection to the natural world.
Much of what is all around us can so easily become part of the furniture of our lives. We become accustomed to the sounds of leaves crunching under our feet as we walk through the forest. We don’t notice the soft touch of the breeze as it messes up our hair and blows the pile of napkins off the picnic table. Maybe we’re thinking about an upcoming meeting or worrying about something someone said to us – or something we said to someone else.
But when you imagine the world as though seen for the first time or once in a thousand years the ordinary truly becomes extraordinary.
Last week after reading Emerson’s quote I found myself looking skyward as I walked my dogs around Haliburton. I couldn’t help but be filled with gratitude to be in this place at this time seeing these stars and breathing this air.
One of the reasons I live in Haliburton is because of the stars.
I grew up in Wiarton a small town of about 2500 on Georgian Bay. I have many memories of the sparkling night sky and the fragrant breeze that would blow across the Niagara Escarpment where I grew up.
When I was a teenager we had an exchange student from The Netherlands come to live with us and soon after her arrival the Northern Lights made an appearance. We slept outside in sleeping bags looking up at the sky. (I’m pretty sure we came inside after awhile because even in early September it gets cold at night.)
After high school I moved to the city went to university and found myself migrating ever closer to Toronto’s downtown until eventually I lived in an apartment building in an area so congested I would often complain to friends that I never felt like I was alone. I was never in an open space. I never smelled the fragrant breeze.
And I couldn’t see any stars.
At the time I was working as a copy editor with a contract soon coming to an end. As I searched for a new job my one stipulation was that the next one be somewhere with a shimmering night sky.
The night I moved to Minden was an unseasonably cold September day. My friends and I shivered as we unloaded items out of the U-Haul truck into the basement apartment I’d rented off Highway 35.
To them I was making a foolhardy decision leaving the social network of Toronto to be in the middle of the forest in a town I’d only visited once during a job interview.
But I distinctly remember looking up at the sky that night and feeling just the opposite. There the moon glowed brightly ringed in a halo of light.
I felt then as I do now a deep sense of gratitude to live here with the opportunity to look up into the sky and see the universe smiling back at me.