There is a certain darkness that descends over the heart of man this time of year–the darkness penetrates deep for some reason.. Summer time dark is different. During those months, it feels like a vale of humid stagnation is awakened by a bright moonlight.. crickets are buzzing and the night crawlers are doing their amazing dance with dirt..
In the winter though, almost immediately as Halloween ends and November begins, something else occurs. The noise at night stops. Life is replaced with a howl of wind, vacant as it bends trees and whirls through pine needles.. Cold eclipses anything that was once warm.. It strikes deep into the body, making each joint feel more like a creaky old door than a bone or limb..
I don’t all hate it, though.. Humans have a remarkable way of dealing with the early onset of winter. We light up our house with an array of Christmas lights and maneuver gigantic inflatable Santa Clauses into parts of the yard that don’t seem to really match the immense nature of the decor..
After Christmas, though, that’s when the real winter sets in.. the time where the lights are off and the cold darkness that is most wretched time of year hits hard.. Snowstorms and cold waves–now the weatherpersons have renamed it the Polar Vortex. Sounds scary. I much more preferred the 1990s term the Polar Express. It implied more of a happy thought, like the cold front would be accompanied by sled dogs and an audience to applaud us as we attempt to start our car int he morning, or shovel out after a blizzard in a futile try to get to work on a Monday morning..
There is one amazing part of this time of year though, one that gives me strength, hope, and wonder. It’s the night sky–the stars in winter are bright.. When a cold and clean front moves in from the north, the night time air is pure. Unless squall lines of flurries are moving in, the evening turns into a starlit winter night.. When it does, I cannot help but to stare endlessly. It provokes deep thoughts about existence, about who I am and where I am in this universe.. We are after all just spinning on a pale blue dot somewhere in the middle of chaos and an expanding universe. That is amazing.. but also humbling.. While the cold air compels my face to cover up, on nights when the stars are bright the only thing I want to do is stay outside and star at the sky. The past. The future.. everything.
For some reason when it’s cold I always think of Long Beach Island–I have been there a handful of times, prior to Superstorm Sandy, and each time there it seemingly ended up being cold. The skies over LBI, with the waves of water crashing onto the beach on one side and the calm seagulls of the bay on the other, was as beautiful a sky as any other I’ve seen. That is why, no matter where I am in my place on this planet, at night in winter I often look to the the location where I know Long Beach Island rests.. I picture the sky over my head to be slightly the same there, the only difference would of course be that my land is dry and that land is not.. But the sky is what connects me.
It connects all of us as a matter of fact.
Regardless of season or time, no matter what inflatable figure is blowing in the air, one thing is certain: We all see the same sky and we have been seeing the same sky for countless generations. The amazing fact that, 50 or 100 years ago, humans on this planet have looked out during a brisk evening at the stars as they were shining.. and they, too, wondered what place they had in this universe.. I will assure you, most of their thoughts were the same as ours. Times have changed, the scenes have altered, but the basic questions remain.. What is our place? And what is our future after we lose our place?
The ultimate questions are somewhere out there..
Stars are always being born, and others are always dying.
Stars may have created life on earth, seeding a planet to become a harbor for both the greatest and worst of power and might.
And maybe, after it’s said and done, we go back out there to the stars.. deep in space.. and become the past, present, and future that Earth will always see on a cold November night. Somewhere in time.