….not yet, I know. I’ve been wearing my winter coat, but we’re not quite there yet in New York, it’s still November and it hasn’t snowed. But walking home last night I looked up at the sky and saw the constellation Orion shining brightly above the buildings, each star clear and distinct against the black sky, and I remembered learning as a child that Orion is a winter constellation. So the night sky thinks it’s winter.
I wanted to take a picture but my camera couldn’t handle it and would’ve showed a deep black sky with no pinpricks of light marking out the great hunter’s shoulders and tunic and belt of three stars. The light pollution in New York is such that only these brightest stars are visible — the photos of Orion you’ll find on Google often show all the other stars around and in between the constellation, but in New York you can’t see most of them.
Sometimes I miss the quiet of life outside the city and the true darkness of the sky that you can never quite achieve here. In college my choir would always go on a fall retreat in the middle of nowhere for a weekend and have a bonfire under the stars. We’d sing together and eat s’mores, and I usually took a few minutes to lie on my back and look up. The stars in New York are flat against the sky but out away from the city you can start to see the depth of the universe, and you start thinking about the fact that you’re looking at the distant light of the past.
Yesterday an unmanned spacecraft landed on a comet hundreds of millions of miles away and started sending information back to Earth. There’s so much wonder out there, so much to learn, and I bet all of the scientists working on the project would say that they’re doing what they do now because one day, a long time ago, they decided to look up.
Freezing Winter Night, A Ceremony of Carols, Benjamin Britten