Long after sunset last night, my daughters and I went walking, in that thick rural dark broken only by the lights of the single house across the road, the lights of our kitchen behind us, and overhead all those stars. The little girl, fearful of the dark, walked between her sister and me. Those glimmering, oh-so-bright stars twinkled in the treetops, still bare and leafless at this time of year.
Earlier that day, the younger girl had dug quartz pebbles from the roadside mud, washed them clean in a puddle, and gave them to me to put in my pockets for safekeeping. My diamonds, she called them.
Shiny bits of stars, bright bits of stone.
As we walked back to our house, guided by the compass of our kitchen light, the older daughter told us she parted her curtains every night and slept every night with a windowful of stars over her bed.
I asked my daughters to imagine our world without stars, with only darkness, none of the constellations cartwheeling across the sky, no dipper pouring luck over our roof, no Orion standing sentry through those bitter winter nights, no Milky Way – that mesmerizing arc of the eternally and ever-beautiful mysteriously ineffable. What kind of world would this be without the lights of the great heavens that have endured, before and after, any human stirrings on this green and blue planet?
My daughter, age 17, pondered this as we stood with our faces tipped upward. Then she said, That would suck.
I experience a period of frightening clarity in those moments when nature is so beautiful. I am no longer sure of myself, and the paintings appear as in a dream.
– Vincent Van Gogh