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Life in Community

Commonplace Epiphanies

July 22, 2015 by

Stars in the night sky

Perhaps you’ve noticed a thread running through the first two posts of my blog. If I were to name a theme to connect my short essays, past and future, I might use the word reverence. Today, more than ever, we need reverence before the great Creator of the universe. The vast majority of astronomy websites place man's knowledge in the forefront. Today's generation of children may be familiar with the incredible photographs taken by the Hubble Space Telescope. These admittedly impressive color-enhanced images of galaxies, nebulae, and star clusters can be viewed on practically every device known to man – but not in real life. Stand outside and look into a clear night sky: the images placed into your mind and heart will be very different. It is these actual observations of the dome of heaven that I wish to write for you. Join me in recapturing the spirit of reverence, the sense of awe, and help me to passing it on to those around you.

Now imagine yourself sitting around a campfire listening to an old-fashioned story teller:

Once upon a time, in the summer of 1993, there was a little girl whose father and mother loved her very much. On those rare nights when the moon wasn’t shining and the air was swept clean by the cold, you could find the child’s father lying on his back in a wide open meadow. Soon the stars of the Milky Way would be visible in the fading twilight. In the enfolding darkness he would watch the starry hosts move unperceptively across the dome of heaven. But that did not happen often because their home was tucked into the hills of northwestern Connecticut. Most nights, the clouds rolled up the sky like a thick quilt while the little girl slept peacefully in her room.

Now on this particular night, when the little girl was nearly three years old, the moment came when her father could take his daughter outside and stand among the stars. "Tonight," said the father, "I will wake you up to see the stars." Little Cosette, for that was her name, did not fully understand, but she reflected her father’s excitement. She went to her bed all dressed in her day-clothes. When the texture of the night sky was velvet-black, the father gently woke up little Cosette and carried her in his arms while she rubbed the sleep out of her eyes. They stood together, facing south. The constellation of Sagittarius was fully visible, but Cosette did not need to know about constellations, she was only trying to grasp for the first time in her short life the meaning of what she saw.

Stars of the Milky Way and the Swan constellation
Photograph by Eclipse.sx/Wikimedia Commons

There are no precise words to properly describe a child's first impression of the starry hosts of heaven. She stood, wide-eyed and silent. "Awe-struck" is how her father described it to her mother later that evening when Cosette was safely tucked back in bed.

The next day while the family was eating supper there were carrots on the table.

"Cosette, if you want to see the stars again then you should eat up all your carrots,” her father said.

"What will I be if I eat up all my carrots?" asked little Cosette.

"Oh, you will be a real stargazer," smiled her father.

"Then I'd rather not be a 'star-glazer' at all," came the honest answer.

Sometimes now, when I stay out too late watching the stars rising and setting, I remember my daughter's malapropism and realize I don’t want to be a “star-glazer” either. Rather than be spoiled by high-definition images from outer space, to the point where my eyes glaze over, I want always to be able to appreciate the sky right above whatever field I happen to be lying in, a true stargazer.

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About the author

John Henry Menz

John Henry Menz

John is an amateur astronomer, photographer, and gardener who is currently living in Beech Grove, a Bruderhof in England...

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  • It’s great! Go Gramps blogger! Luckily lots of time has passed since 1993…now I’m a big Cosette who loves carrots especially “glazed” with butter and parsley! I even enjoy the night skies…I guess little people grow up and change their ways!

    Cosette