Most of my work is inside buildings with no windows,
walls covered with exposed conduits and ducts. But sometimes I get to work outside, away from machinery and scaffolding. Sometimes my boss assigns me to drive a route that follows the outskirts of the company's property, servicing several stations along the way.
The route is about 24 miles long, roundtrip. The early morning air is fresh and the sun rises with optimism. Wildflowers, sagebrush, meadowlarks, antelope, rabbits, and coyotes can be spotted.
Traveling the route during the day is wonderful, of course, but I think the nighttime has a deeper impact upon me.
Night reduces my world to only what I can see. The closest light is my headlight, showing only the road ahead and a bit of the roadsides to my left and right. I might see a mouse scurry quickly across the pavement. A glance to my left shows the orange and white factory lights of the plant. To my right I can see scattered white lights marking pumphouses and farm buildings. My horizon is marked with a sparse layer of orange and white lights of towns. Rising higher are the red lights of wind turbines, power lines and cell towers.
The further I get from the factory and towns, the more overwhelming becomes the sky above. Light pollution and clouds hinder me from seeing all the stars, but I know they are there.
At night I feel small.
I feel alone. I feel vulnerable. At night it's easy to imagine a cougar stalking me or a rattler coiled to strike. It's easy to imagine stumbling on a rock, falling to the ground, landing on a scorpion or tarantula. It's easy to imagine seeing God, or rather, being seen by God.
For humans, at least for the brand of humans with which I've lived for over fifty years, my family, friends and community, we own what we see. If we can see it, we can buy it or build it or bomb it.
But the darkness of night erodes our human sense of superiority and strength. Night reduces our vision, giving sovereignty over to what we cannot see but what we can imagine. And imaginations can run wild.
It's good to remember that we are dust.
It's good to remember that we are small.
Image courtesy of NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day Collection, "Reflections on the Inner Solar System".
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