The smell of the balsam pine intensifies my memory of last night’s Harvest Moon. I don’t remember ever having seen one so bright, so huge or so inspiring. The children and I watched it disappear and reappear behind the road on our long ride home. I told them that it was the same moon that New York was seeing tonight. When I came home, facebook told me I was right. There were moon comments and photos from New York, and Germany and Hollywood. I momentarily forgot about it and fell in to my usual nighttime routine of handwork in front of the television. I turned on The Universe and the episode was about the sun, our sun. Unlike other science shows I’ve seen I was struck by an endless slew of epiphanies with each new revelation. It all started when they announced that our sun would die. This seems like something we should all know, doesn’t it? How could I be 32 years old and not know that our sun isn’t everlasting? Apparently it’s running on fuel and that fuel will run out and when it does it will die. Not only that, the sun’s luminosity continually increases as it burns which means that long before it dies it will raise the temperature of our planet considerably. To be exact, in a billion years our earth will be 100 degrees hotter than it is today. At those temperatures, water will not be able to remain in a liquid form. 100 degrees will destroy the delicate balance that life on earth depends on.
As catastrophic as this sounds, they say our sun is going through the natural cycle of all stars. Our whole solar system was formed when the elements of the universe swirled and grew in a nebula, a star cradle, which was formed when a previous star died and left its elements behind. The bits and pieces of the stars don’t just disappear. When a star dies, their elements recycle in to new stars. Now our sun is in the middle of its own life cycle.
When I say the middle, I mean the middle. The absolute middle. In the 1990s, scientists were able to pinpoint exactly how long a star lives, and how old our sun is, and it is exactly halfway through its life. That made me realize just how incredible it is that we’re all here- the entire human history- just right at the exact moment in time that we CAN be here. Any earlier the star’s light wouldn’t have shined bright enough for ice to melt and any later from now the star’s light will be too bright for water to stay aground. Isn’t it amazing that a star’s life is exactly long enough to maintain human history? It isn’t longer or shorter, it’s just right. It’s only now that we can exist. Here we are on the cusp of the sun’s cycle, it is both living and dying at once, and so are we. We, as individuals, born to live only a finite number of days, and we, as humans, here to stay only as long as history can hold us. Here we are with the capability to see the whole cycle of time and the consequence of it all. We can see the abundance this miracle of perfect timing and placement has resulted in and we can predict the devastation that will occur when the time has passed. It’s exactly like our individual lives. Each one of us is both living and dying, simultaneously, not one of us can say if we’re on the way in or out we are only just here, alive, in this moment, in our moment and nothing more. There is a certainty that it will end, and there’s the certainty that it will begin again.
I had been thinking deeply about life decisions. “I could die tomorrow” prompted me to act and to be frustrated by all roadblocks. But now I realize that it isn’t that I could die tomorrow it’s that I’m alive today that matters. I’m alive today and that is a true and almost too perfect miracle.
Only it isn’t too perfect because I know it will end.
All this made me think about how frighteningly correct all the sacred texts are. I don’t know much about the Bible, but I do know that there is a clear story of creation, as there is in science, and a clear story of how it all ends and we return to the heavens. How very correct it is, literally and scientifically that we are born of the heavens and will return to them at last. The sun will die, and out of its wake a new one will form. Again and again and again?
What harmony exists amongst us, man and woman and sun and stars. How amazing is it that we’re all experiencing the same cycle together- made of the same elements on the same perpetual path and at the same perfect moment. The only thing I can make of it is that the choice we have is to look forward or back. Either we embrace this unbelivable gift and curse and fully enrich the experience in all its glory, or we succomb to the ultimate recognition that it is only temporary and exponentially racing towards an end.
I can’t condone or condemn either path. We all have to make the choice and most likely will make both.
I can see in Velvet that she is purely immersed in each moment. She has no extra thought about the future or the past, she is present, always. She can maintain a pure joy that I can only experience for brief seconds. But she can also reach total terror as quickly. There is nothing to tell her that she won’t die instantaneously when a butterfly passes, and she reacts as such. I can, but then I also process all the in-between.
Today I was reminded of the scene in Wilder’s “Our Town” when the girl who has passed away asks for one day that she can return to life. She chooses her happiest day, her birthday, and upon returning she re-experiences the day entirely differently than she had remembered. When she asks her mother, her father and her brother to see her, they all ignore her. She begs for them to look at her but they are preparing this, cooking that, working on something else. How brilliant and devastating is the moment that we recognize that we are both living and missing, both given and losing each moment of our lives? It is no different from the children we both have and lose, the loved ones we have but can’t have, and on and on and on.
I am overwhelmed by the quality of our connections and the perfect fortune of our seasons. I look to predict and perfect my future when I already know it’s outcome. We’re all going to die someday and we can’t take anything with us. So what will we choose to leave behind? How will we choose to live today?