Last night I came across Grey’s Anatomy just in time to see Owen looking up at a night sky full of stars. My DVR will fill in the rest, but in the meantime I’ve been thinking about those stars.

I was reminded that city lights obscure that sight for millions of people. Their entire lives. It’s hard for me to even imagine a lifetime spent in the absence of starlight. I grew up in an isolated area, where the concept of light pollution was as foreign as the depths of the oceans. Yes, I was landlocked, but I had all of space that was visible from my little corner of the Northern Hemisphere above my head on every clear night in which to swim.

I’ve traveled a lot, so I’ve had the opportunity to see the night sky over England and France, Canada and American Samoa, even the Southern Cross over Australia. I stargazed from a cliff high above the Pacific along the windward side on Oahu. The water off that coastline is unusually deep to be so close to shore. So deep in fact that humpbacks sometimes breach there, gifting a fortunate few with an up close display of marine wonder. One night a man had a telescope up there, and generously offered fellow stargazers a peek at Saturn. I stood there, barely breathing, taking in the ring graced beauty of a world hanging there in space such  unimaginable distance away. No whale breached for me that night, but I never forgot the even greater impact of the sight of Saturn, its bright rings pulled near for a moment out of the magnificent night sky.

Still, nothing quite compares to the night sky of my childhood. I didn’t realize then what a privilege it was to have those stars in their familiar constellations visible over my head any time I chose to go outside and look upward in the dark. I took that great black velvet blanket, sprinkled with its brilliant points of light, for granted.

It never occurred to me that there were people all over our world who lived entire lifetimes with that marvelous wide open window to the heavens obscured by the pale, poor imitation of man made light. I never could have imagined that even many of those with the opportunity to gaze upward with wonder went about the mundane business of their lives oblivious. All the stars in the sky waiting to be seen for the simple price of lifting their heads…lost to a field of vision narrowed down to the here, the now, the act of watching their own feet wearing paths into the dirt of a single planet.

Maybe I was just a weird little kid. I certainly didn’t know anyone else, old or young, who went outside to stand in their driveway, rough, sharp gravel cutting into bare feet, and tilt their head so far back that space and time and place all blurred together. I can still remember so vividly the disorienting feeling when up and down just barely lost their relevance. It was as if up and down blended with out there, until everything was a field of vision that was a field of stars. Certain angles, certain moments…it felt almost as if I fell…upward…outward…into the mysterious depths of space itself.

Yes, maybe I was just a weird little kid, overly endowed with a sense of wonder and fascinated by concepts too big for my brain, grappling with ideas and mysteries and awe that have baffled the greatest minds of earth’s collective history. Even so, I was a weird little kid with big questions and bigger dreams.

For me that defines who I was then, and who I am now. Only now that the little kid has grown up there’s a name for it:

Science fiction writer.

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