Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Heaven's Jewelbox

I had to shorten this for my book proposal due to considerations of length, but the wonderful thing about having this blog is that I can post 'outtakes and jams' as the good ole Grateful Dead would say.....
For me, one of the most important factors in my own personal awakening and connection with the Universe is a sense of awe and wonder at the grandeur and mystery of existence.

The night of 25th August 1995

Leaving the marquee I looked up and became aware of one of the most breathtaking and awesome sights I have ever witnessed.

The fire at the gate had died down, and we were sufficiently far from any towns or major roads for there to be no artificial glare thrown up into the sky. The total absence of cloud cover, though it made for a chill night, allowed me an untarnished view of the wondrous vault that stretched above.

The memory of the African sky which I had seen as a child had long dimmed. I took an interest in astronomy, regularly watching Patrick Moore’s ‘Sky at Night’, but living in a city I was only accustomed to the brightest of stars as points of light struggling to achieve visibility through the haze of pollution and sodium yellow street lights.

What I saw now was of a totally different order of existence. The sky shone with silver dust, hinting at colours just beyond sight as twinkling, it seemed to breath. The bright stars that I was familiar with were lost amid the multitude and I was forced to orient myself with the points of the compass even to find the North Star.

A river of sparkling gems stretched across the infinite vastness above me. From behind me to my left the Milky Way arched across the sky, high above the silhouette of the Malvern hills on the Eastern edge of the world reaching its climax before me and to my right, as it slid down to the South Western horizon and disappeared behind the stygian blackness of the wood beyond our field. Although I did not reflect upon it at the time, it was only a matter of hours before the New Moon, and so this celestial vision was unaffected by any rival intrusion of light.

The city dweller is accustomed only to single stars, but here they were beyond count. If most of the sky glowed with the lights which were strewn across it, winking in the invisible currents of the atmosphere, then the brightness of the galactic disc was bejewelled, glistening and thick with stars jostling for space as they marched along the arcing bridge that spanned the inky background of the skyfield.

The galactic hub was illuminated with the lights of worlds uncounted. They melted together into a crescendo of brilliance where the wealth of heaven’s treasure chest had been heaped.

As I gazed upon this panoply of splendour I felt an echo of the awe which early civilisations from the desert parts of the world had had for the sky and its gods. A shooting star marked its passage through this vision of eternity and I forgot the cold which was seeping into my bones.

The frosty encrustation of the galactic centre in the empyrean was rent with blackness where only a thin scattering of individual points of light broke through. The ancients had believed that it was impossible for a mortal to look upon the face of God and live. The chasm of darkness hid the very centre of the celestial core. The Mayans knew this as the birthplace of the World, or the Womb of Creation, the Hunab Ku, the veiled place of God. To others it was the Cosmic Yin, the dark empty place from which all reality was spawned. But it was also the Mouth of Kali, the Goddess of Death who devours all things.

A second meteor burnt up in the atmosphere before my eyes, puncturing the protective skin of ionised particles which enfolds our little world, momentarily bridging the gap from infinity to limitation. Viewing the crystalline splendour from which this burst of energy had emerged I reflected on the doctrine that the human race had been as gods before we fell from the heavens to our present lowly station. But was it not also told that we should build a ladder to the stars, and climb on every rung until we had regained our stature amongst the gods?

Feasting on the banquet of brilliance I hugged myself for warmth as I, amazed, tried to absorb the wonders which seemed so casually spilt across the heavens like the contents of a divine jewelbox, accidentally upended and spread out upon this velvet field.

A third shooting star gave itself up to oblivion, vaporising into a momentary stream of wonder for perhaps my eyes only. It was as if this entire wondrous display had been made solely for the purpose of taking my breath away. Though the sky is as public a thing as could be, I felt my contact with it to be intimate. Squatting, hunched up and hugging my knees, my body began to shiver and protest against the cold which was the price I paid for this.

There, utterly alone with myself in the middle of a field in the night, I was touched with the infinite, and yet could not have been less alone. It was one of those moments of total clarity with which we may be blessed when through accident or design, and perhaps some cunning mix of the two, we find ourselves in alignment with the Cosmos and there can be no doubt as to meaning or purpose. We are part of all this, and this is part of us. The billions of years which separate us from the fusion of our chemical elements in long-dead supernovae felt like the blink of an eye.

Looking, waiting for a fourth shooting star I was conscious of my shivering flesh and my bare feet wet with the dew. A heavenly gateway had been opened and I had glimpsed infinity in my soul as much as in the sky. But the wheel of change would not still for my inner world. I had been granted to feast on the divine spectacle for a few moments, to ask or hope for more was spiritual gluttony. Suddenly aware of how cold I felt, I was back in my material shell and the warmth of my little nest beckoned.

With a heavy heart I left the silvery gleam and made for the darkness of our night’s shelter. The gentle sound of slumberous breathing welcomed me and I slid into my sleeping bag, filled with wonder at my nocturnal cosmic journey.

copyright © 2011 Claire Rae Randall

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