Tonight there will be a full moon. It may be rainy and cloudy tonight, but it wasn’t a few nights ago when the luminous moon radiated its beauty. I love full moons.
I remember when I was a young teenager having a pajama party with some girlfriends. We were sleeping in our tent camper out in the backyard. At one point in the middle of the night I tiptoed out the door and across the yard to use the bathroom in the house. I couldn’t believe how magical the world felt in that moment. Apparently I had never been outside while the full moon was high in the sky before. I had never experienced a world that was so full of light and yet in the middle of the night. If I had seen fairies or unicorns, I don’t think I would have been surprised. The world felt that full of magical possibilities.
I also love the night even when the moon is not visible. I find the nighttime sky awe-inspiring. Gazing at the stars is one of the times I feel most connected to the Creator. How vast and powerful and magnificent must be the One who conceived of such a glorious cosmos, not only this amazing Earth, but an entire Universe full of countless suns and planets, galaxies and spiraling gases. The sky at night makes me feel both tiny and dearly loved at the same time. Somehow I feel that when I gaze upon the cosmos with love, I am a part of the infinite whole.
Light pollution is not one of the more deadly forms of pollution, but it is nevertheless very sad. Because of it we now have millions and millions of city and suburb dwellers who have never seen a sky with more than ten or twenty stars. There is not a lot of power and majesty in that diminished sight. But if you’ve ever seen a sky splattered with hundreds or thousands of stars, layers upon layers of stars, a Milky Way galaxy swath of stars, it is very difficult not to feel a sense of awe, a sense that there is Someone or Something bigger out there than just the petty details of our tiny little lives.
A few years ago, I was living near the Rio Grande in New Mexico. I fell in love with the place because it was next to an actual grassy meadow with horses – a tough thing to find in the middle of a desert! I loved my new home except for one thing: my landlady had a bright security light on the property. It was like a tall streetlight with extra amplified bright light. I hated that I couldn’t walk outside at night and see the stars.
One day I asked my landlady if there was some way this light could be turned off. I think I said something about finding the darkness powerful and beautiful. She looked at me aghast, like I was some kind of devil-worshipper. I guess I used the wrong words. If I had said something about feeling the presence of God when I looked at the stars, she might have better understood.
The ancients believed in the power of the night. Anglo-Saxons and Celts began their holy days at dusk and celebrated through the night. They knew this was a time when there was a more powerful connection between humans and the world of Spirit.
Traditional Africans also believe in the power of the night. The only light that is allowed during their nighttime ceremonies is a sacred fire. And the light of the fire is mediated by the sacredness of the drums which accompany it.
We have become a people who spend too much time indoors – especially at night. How many of us anymore sit outside with the stars, or with a campfire, or under the light of the moon? Instead, many of us stay up too late, and in the glare of incandescent light bulbs. Not a particularly inspiring way to spend the night.
So the next time you feel the need for a bit of cosmic communion, try lying out on a blanket and gazing at the stars. Or sit on a grassy hill and watch the moon rise over the horizon. Or invite a special friend or two and sit around a crackling fire. I imagine your spirit will be significantly nourished and excited by sacred time of this kind.
In praise of the Night, the Stars, and the glorious Moon, I wish you sweet and magical dreams. Blessed be, everyone.