While running this morning the sky over the water was the typical pallete of gorgeous summer color. The bay met the sky on the horizon and glittered blue and beautiful. I thought I am lucky to be here and indeed I was. As I plodded happily into mile four, I looked to the water again and saw cast against it on the shore a blue jay. Suddenly the water was no less stunning but less blue – it was gunmetal, or steel, still shimmering but not quite what I thought. I realized how much I wasn’t seeing. I didn’t feel guilty for having enjoyed my limited perception, but was glad that I was now seeing more.
In this month’s Atlantic there is a short piece reflecting on a decidedly first world problem: the light cast by American streetlamps. Having lived in both city and country, I have probably given more thought to light pollution than most people, and I have reflected before on how the ubiquity of light might actually prevent us from seeing. I could have sworn that the following was written on this blog, but it was actually written during one of my previous incarnations as a writer.
I am always astonished when I can see the stars in the city. But often I can, and I cherish those moments and love to gaze up even though I must look like a crazy person. A few months ago when I was home, at my parents’ house in the country, I instinctively looked up when standing in the driveway, and I realized “oh. There are a lot more stars than I am used to seeing.” I felt a little foolish, thinking that the few brightest bits of light I could see from the top of the hill every night were all that were out there.
Last night the sky bewitched me again, and I admired the moon hanging over the monument, and then followed the line of soft, deep pink clouds that I could see moving with the crisp night wind. I saw Orion’s Belt, and a few other constellations that pop from the heavens against all adversity. As stood in the cold I reminded myself that I could only see a fraction of the brilliance of the universe.
And then I realized I was standing directly underneath a streetlight.
What beauty hides in the darkness? What streetlamps and flashlights do we use in desperate attempts to illuminate our lives? And what do we miss when we try to manipulate what God has given us? How brave we must be to extinguish the candles, to switch off the lamps, and trust that inside the darkness there is a beauty and a life that is most glorious, because it is God’s truest creation.
What myriad miracles wait inside my deepest darkness?
– March 5, 2007