"In every walk with nature one receives more than he seeks."
John Muir

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

4 AM Musings

I was awakened at 4 AM.

Kathleen had been awake, feeding and rocking baby Ethan in the quiet house.
Before tucking him back in for more sleep for both,
she had gazed outside.
What she saw compelled her to invite me to join them.

It was the stars!
A myriad of them, meaning one simply could NOT begin to count!
In the blackest of skies, the mass of white specks cried out
in their sharpness!
Some seemed close enough to reach if I could extend my arms just a bit more.

During her growing up years, it was Kathleen who shared my love of stars.
We shared many nighttime hours outside, at times shivering in the cold,
trying to recognize constellations.
I talked about my desire to someday take an astronomy course.

It was she who studied the stars and skies in college,
learning the skill of running the school planetarium
and teaching local school children about the stars.

Back to 4 AM...
she could not linger this sparkling night, but kindly wrapped me
in a large, soft blanket as I stood on the deck.
We spoke in hushed tones of the wonder of the skies
then she returned to her bed by the cradle.

I gazed upward for a long while, noting the different locations
of the familiar stars since we were at a much farther north
latitude than Texas.  I thought of how much more splendid the
star show was without any trace of light pollution.

Just then a fairly large noise came up from the ground below.
A heavy walking step, rustling the dried leaves.
A man? Animal?  
My pulse sped up.
The sound moved closer to the house.
The dark, moonless night was so black that,
strain as I would, I was unable to discern even an outline of an object.
I followed its direction with my ears.
As the keenness of my hearing sharpened, I identified two large
beings stomping quite loudly amongst the forest floor.

Moose!  Of course!
The narrow, worn path that meandered around the house and up the hill 
was an age-old moose trail.
I had known that easily in the light of day.
Here moved 2 large moose, perhaps the mother and yearling
or two brothers that we often saw in mornings.
How could they see where they were going?
It was so very, very dark.
 I leaned forward in an effort to make out
something in the woods.  But, I could see not a thing.
It was as if I were totally blind.
I listened as their steps paused and continued until the crunching and swishing
faded into the night.

Then I turned my face upward and my blinded eyes grew sighted!
Above, the stars still glowed, sparkled, and flickered. 

I pulled the quilt tighter around me and mused at time.
Those same stars began that glow thousands and millions of years ago
and I was just now glorying in that same exact light.
It had been traveling, no hurtling, through space all this time.
That precise star may very well have exploded millenia ago
and no longer even existed yet I was marveling at its glimmer.

And so with the moose.
Long before houses and roads blocked the path, the ancient
ancestors of those invisible (to me, at least!) moose tramped through
the woods in the same way.  Oh, the trail has been modified a bit by
settlers like Josh and Kathleen who envisioned a house in that place.
But the moose still wear down the narrow path, winding around the
man-made structures and yet following the same general trail
that their parents and grandparents and, well, you know.

Almost older than time, these moose and stars.
And upstairs, warm and swaddled, contentedly sleeping with a full belly,
the  youngest of all slept by his parents.
And I stood there, chilled despite the quilt, musing.
Not nearly the age of the stars, but far older than my wee
 grandson, I felt somehow in the center of the continuum of time.
I will not be leaving a worn path through the woods
not a beam of faint light to pierce the darkness,
but I will leave some sort of legacy behind.
A heavy thought.
What will I leave behind when I am done spending time on this earth?

Hopefully my love will reach beyond me (albeit imperfect):

love for my God, my family, friends and the beautiful things that
God Himself created to wonder at, like nighttime stars and silent animals.

What will you leave?


  1. so beautifully written Sharon, you have a gift for writing. I am looking forward to seeing the stars,and the northern lights! I will be in AK in a couple of weeks. Will you still be there? Tammy

  2. What a wonderful post and good thoughts, especially after a hard day. That the whole of life is so much more important and it is the small day to day things that will be remembered by my children. May God grant me the peace, patience and love it takes to make an impression on you, my generation before, and my children, the generation after. Thank you for the legacy you have left for me to follow.