by Jennifer on September 1, 2009

Last winter, my sister and my kids and I visited Kitt Peak Observatory, not far from Tucson.

I remember something that the observatory guide said that night, “When we look at the sky, we’re looking at the past.”

That one sentence has clung to me for all these months. I know it’s a scientific explanation for what looks like magic from my backyard, but it’s haunting to think that we can’t know what’s happening out there right now. It takes something like 4.3 light years for the light from the closest star in the sky at night to reach Earth, and the light from the farthest stars takes 10 or 11 billion light years to reach us. So whatever is really going on in our solar system tonight – not what we see, but what is happening in real time – no one will even see from Earth for years, centuries, millenia, longer.

To me, that does the same explosive thing to my brain as trying to imagine forever.

And yet, it’s also comforting.

We can see the past from a distance, where it shines or even fades, if we squint against it. What’s happening here on Earth matters as little to whoever is out there in the universe as what happens there matters here. There’s freedom in that.

Make the best of this life, make this one life shine as much as you can, until it drops like a flare out of sight.

Things are changing, and I can feel it.  And because things begin long before we ever know it, the future is already on its way to me, to all of us. On some horizon, speeding toward us or moving in achingly slow turns, something is rising. Full, bright.

And I’m turning toward it.

{ 23 comments… read them below or add one }

Louise September 1, 2009 at 4:26 pm

Turn. It will feel good.

(I was going to say “feel the warm sun on your face,” but somehow, I don’t think that one would do much for you.)

I love change. I know you do. Turn and embrace it.


fancy feet September 1, 2009 at 5:11 pm

Beautiful. I feel the same way. I’m turning too.


jenrantsraves September 1, 2009 at 5:31 pm

“Make the best of this life, make this one life shine as much as you can, until it drops like a flare out of sight.” – I love this line. I’ve been feeling that a lot lately – that I want to see more, do more, be more. I want it to take my breath away, like a shooting star.


phd in yogurt September 1, 2009 at 6:40 pm

“When we look at the sky, we’re looking at the past.”

What’s also really cool, a star we see in our night sky may have already burnt out but it’s light travels for years and years. I’d like to think that when I burn out, I’ll leave some light behind for years to come.


ree September 1, 2009 at 6:43 pm

I love getting caught up in thinking about how vast and old the sky that we see really is. I’m so glad you posted this.


flutter September 1, 2009 at 7:49 pm

and no matter where you turn, or how far you go, I am holding your hand in mine. One of the greatest blessings of blogging has been the blooming of our friendship.

love you.


Jessica September 1, 2009 at 10:27 pm

I’m counting on that Jen. The idea that things are changing but we just can’t see it yet. HOw poetic and beautiful

I love you so so much.


Madge September 2, 2009 at 7:26 am

this makes me very happy.


Green Girl in Wisconsin September 2, 2009 at 7:46 am

That is such a poetic idea. And it reminds me that the past matters.


Daryl September 2, 2009 at 8:06 am

Turn toward it, embrace it … change can be good …


Kimberly September 2, 2009 at 8:26 am

Just. Beautiful.

Turn, Jennifer, turn!


Cammie September 2, 2009 at 9:30 am

Make the best of this life, make this one life shine as much as you can,…

Love that line! Reminds me that we leave an impression too, what kind of impression will we leave behind?

Enjoyed reading today, excited about your future!


PAPA September 2, 2009 at 12:01 pm

I definitely feel the same. The shift is a very POSITIVE one. You can see it with so many people choosing to do good things, big corporations crumbling to smaller individuals doing real work.

It’s very cool to see.

Thanks, Jennifer, for a great post!


tysdaddy September 3, 2009 at 6:06 am

This is a splendid post, my friend. To use a different metaphor, I trudge through each day planting seeds that won’t blossom for days, weeks, months, even years. But bloom they will . . .


Daryl September 3, 2009 at 6:06 am

Back to say Congrats on the POTD mention at David’s!


Alixandra Hice September 3, 2009 at 7:00 am

Boy, did this post get me thinking. Your words are so true and pure and brilliant. And that light seems to be coming from an “old soul,” which just proves your point all the more.

Congratulations on your POTD mention from David McMahon.


Debbie Davis September 3, 2009 at 1:37 pm

Amazing post! Congrats on the Post of the Day Award!


brian miller September 3, 2009 at 1:44 pm

there are amazing truths in what you just said…if we don’t turn, it still comes…we can’t stop it….only embrace it. love looking and pondering in the sky as well. congrats on the POTD mention.


the mama bird diaries September 3, 2009 at 7:08 pm

What a gorgeous photo.

I get so freaked when I start thinking about space and time and all that. And what’s beyond our universe and what are we really part of. I’m getting shivers.


gaelikaa September 3, 2009 at 10:12 pm

I have also contemplated this and it is an awesome concept.


Jeanne September 4, 2009 at 2:57 pm

What a great way to think of the sky and the stars – that we are looking into the past, geeze how cool is that! And you are right…things are always changing which means the future is already on it’s way. That is both comforting and scary! Thanks for sharing that wonderful insight – I will look at the stars differently now, too!


Suzanne September 4, 2009 at 6:59 pm

Jen, I’m heading out to Tahoe in the middle of the month to check out houses….hopefully to find one to rent. If I do, you are welcome to come and visit anytime! (You do know that I will be living on the Nevada side of the lake, where they have lots of poker tables!)


Kim September 13, 2009 at 9:51 pm

I’m turning too ~ towards the light, one step at a time. You so often write what’s in my heart. Thank you.


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