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The Midnight Sky

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One night, during my family’s traditional summer vacation to Cape Cod, me and my family stopped at Marconi Beach (yes, the very man who invented the radio) to look at the full moon over the water. I thought I’d already seen the best of Cape Cod over the years; the beaches, the bike trails, and trips through the beautiful White Cedar Swamp, but I was wrong.
I’d seen the moon before, the way my dad would marvel over it through the lens of his telescope like it was a rare jewel. Nevertheless, by no means could have imagined it could be as amazing as it was that night, never before thought twice about it hovering there in the sky. Before heading out into the overwhelming dark, I pulled the zipper of my sweatshirt up as far as I could to my neck and replaced my hat with the slightly cozier hood of my jacket, as if to hold on to some of the warmth from the car interior before walking out into the cold. The sky was clear that night, the fresh air invigorating as it sent chills through the core of my body, and we walked down the gravel path through the dunes of Marconi Beach. When we reached the end of the path, I saw the moon. I had no idea it could be so beautiful, something that we see everyday of our lives almost--reinvented in a way by the ocean air and landscape. It sat in the sky, fat and low like a setting sun, spilling out across the pitch black landscape and skipping across the peaks of toiling waves. It was so full and luminous, so close it seemed you could almost reach out and touch it in the night sky. Everything about it put me in awe, but most of all the shear size of it. The way the image still glowed behind your eyelids like a big dinner plate when they were closed and how the image of it continued to linger in my mind the next day.
The next day passed by in a rhythm of skimboarding and hanging out at the beach despite the fact that I could not, nor did I want to, shake the image of the night before from my head. That same night we went to Marconi again hoping to catch another glimpse of the moon over the water but what I saw that night impacted me more then the previous day’s adventure.
Taking a different route this time, my family and I zigzagged our little Subaru up the curving drive that led in the direction of the White Cedar Swamp where, in past days, we’d oddly enough crossed paths with a Buddhist monk. We parked our vehicle, toasty warm inside, there in the lot and proceeded to walk down a path through the dunes. The moon, we already knew by now, was nowhere in sight. Where it went, I’m not too sure but the darkness was eerie and overwhelming. Equipped only thin sweatshirts and headlamps, we searched for one of the wooden platforms in the dunes to lie down on and look at the stars as an alternative. I wasn’t chilly in particular, my hoodie pulled up over my ears and my hands tucked up inside the sleeves, however the cold still seemed to seep through my canvas sneakers, quickly numbing my toes. The fluorescent lights were harsh and cruel in a way to the landscape which was soft except for some shrubs scattered throughout the sand. When we found our destination, we lay down as comfortably as possible on the cold, hard wood. All was silent except for the din of rolling waves and summer cicadas. Then we all shut off our lights and looked to the sky.
I couldn’t believe what I saw after my eyes succumbed to the shock of the darkness. Millions—trillions—of stars littered the midnight sky and the more my eyes adjusted, the more I saw. If you’ve ever looked up in the sky here in Connecticut and thought you saw a lot of stars, that was not a hundredth of the amount of stars I saw. The constellations and the Milky Way could be seen clearly in the cloudless sky like a glowing line of clustered stars dividing the night sky in half. Satellites whizzed through the atmosphere at amazing speeds. It was incredible. Sitting in the enveloping darkness with just my family just gave me the sense of there being so much more out there than us. It was us three facing an entire army, millions strong. The experience was, not to sound ridiculous, life changing in a way. To watch bright shooting stars hurtling through space faster then the speed of sound and fizzle out into sparks, just trying to fathom how many stars I could see and then thinking about how many trillions more I couldn’t makes you feel small in a way. That we as humans seem so insignificant compared to the armada of stars and planets out there. That we have to make something significant out of our lives. A flurry of thoughts swam through my head as I tried to make sense of what I saw.
Still, to this day the images of this trip stay burnished in my mind as well as the thoughts and feeling I had. The realization of something more out there, whether you think of it from a religious point of view of scientific, is hard to argue. When you see something of such magnitude and beauty, you can’t help but feel like the smallest thing in the universe.



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