Friday, June 24, 2016

Twixt soil and stars

A friend, who's just moved from Portugal to the United States, sent me an email to share a heart-warming discovery.

Standing outside her new home, she told me, she could look up at the night sky and feel she was making contact with her friends in Europe, friends who were sharing the same view.

It's a lovely concept . . . the thought that distant stars, way up in space, can form the third point of a triangle, re-connecting friends across the Atlantic.

However, there's one drawback.  For this connection to take place you need to be able to see the stars . . . I can't see the stars.

When I was a child, living in the country, the stars seemed so close.  Like brilliant Christmas baubles, you felt that, if you could only stretch a little further, you'd be able to touch them . . . they were breathtaking, prolific and magical.

Now, in London, such is the light pollution that only the occasional star puts in an appearance . . . a faint, distant sparkle which would seem to have little or no connection with our over-illuminated city.

As we can't look upwards and marvel, is it mere coincidence that we're all too prone to look inwards and worry . . . ignoring what's going on around us?
Do we even take an interest in those we pass in the street?  Not often.  We're far more likely to be looking down at our smart phones.

To have lost sight of the stars has deprived us of so much more than the night sky.  It has deprived us of the visual proof that each one of us is an integral part of an amazing universe.  We only have to look at the stars to acknowledge that we are not alone, isolated and fearful.  We are part of something much bigger, much more complex, much more inter-dependent.

Look at the effect that living in space had on the astronaut, Tim Peake.
He would, he declared, return to space in a heartbeat.

Viewing our planet from space must reveal that life, in all its forms, recognises no frontiers or boundaries. 
We need to look down from the mountain top, or gaze up at the stars, to re-establish that knowledge, and put it into perspective.

But Tim Peake made another memorable comment when he returned to Earth, he spoke of the joy of once again smelling the soil.  We could live without our smart phones, we couldn't live without the soil.  It may be way below the road we're driving along, or covered by the pavement beneath our feet, but it is vital to us all and we forget it at our peril.

Take a handful of soil and think about if for a moment.  Nothing has been added to our planet since its creation.  This means that the soil in your hand comprises a myriad recycled fields and forests, centuries of insects, birds and mammals, our ancestors down the ages, and, eventually, our own mortal remains which will be added to the mix.

The soil encapsulates all that ever was, and provides the nourishment for all that is to come.
What could be more essential and more powerful?

We live between the soil and the stars.  But for those of us city dwellers who can't make contact with the night sky, click here.
Forget your anxieties and marvel . . . there's much to marvel at, and it will do you good!