I must have been around five years of age when I was made to realise that the Earth, which I had till then considered to be to be stationary and solidly fixed somewhere was actually a sphere hurtling through space around the sun. I first thought I was being taken for a ride (which we all are, actually!) and verified this newly-found information with many people.
As more and more people vouched for its credibility, I was crestfallen. I was not sure footed anymore. I stopped prancing around and walked precariously for a long time, fearful of slipping and falling off the curved surface of this sphere.
The elders in the family found this quite amusing and tried to assure me that I was safe and on firm ground.
My little brain could neither process this information nor make any sense of it. I thought it was ridiculous for people to live on a ball that not only revolved around the sun but also spun on its own axis. It seemed incredible and thus was born my fascination for the cosmos.
Sky and star gazing
As I grew up and gained more insight into the heavenly bodies, I was even more mesmerised by the magnificence and vastness of the cosmos. Sky and star gazing became an important pre occupation and I loved the infinite possibilities and mysteries which lay shrouded in the vast darkness.
That there is no such thing as the ‘sky’, it’s the scattering of light, it’s a ‘perspective from the earth’s surface’ et al too had a perplexing effect on me. Things are not always what they seem was brought home effectively, with this knowledge.
I marvelled at how the ‘sky’ could change hues at different times of the day throughout the year. The mellow morning sky, the fierce afternoon one and the soft hazy evening sky- all filled me with wonder and awe. The psychedelic colours, the mountainous vanilla sky, the dark foreboding clouds, the night sky littered with bright stars all put up the most awesome show for me day and night!
So it was with great joy that I moved into a house which had a room with a ceiling to floor window and was strategically located to view the sky! The first thing I did was to move my bed to the window and position it in such a way that I could witness the grand celestial shows unfolding every day and night. This window became my ‘Window to the sky’.
A comforting constant
The Pole Star which I get to see through the night has become a comforting constant in my life.
There are nights when I happen to open my eyes to see a full moon shining benevolently at me. It fills me with peace and tranquillity and a sense of hope for the world. There are mornings made beautiful by the play of light and the tufts of snowy clouds in all shapes and then there are mornings dull and foggy with the sunlight filtering through to me.
Even as I say ‘me’, I realise how insignificant I am in the larger scheme of things! In fact, the earth itself is such a tiny speck in the cosmos. As for our sun, it is a small star and our galaxy is just one among billions. The sheer enormity of our multiverse is mind-blowing!
Carl Sagan captures it beautifully and poignantly in ‘The pale blue dot’ when he describes earth as ‘a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam’. He further elucidates, “It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world.’
It’s very little that I know about astronomy and maybe I will never learn much more either but I feel one with the cosmos and I love to experience the happenings in the sky, be it blue, red, full or crescent moon, a meteor shower, the daily sunrise and sunsets …. you name it and I adore I!
As I lie gazing out of my window to the sky, I get filled with joy as well as wistfulness. I am elated that I got this chance to coexist with my fellow beings in this frame of space and time, that I got a go at this beautiful life. I am grateful that I have had my share of failures and successes in different aspects of life, that I have had moments of absolute joy and elation and equally heartbreaking ones.
Life has not always been fair to anyone of us but it’s worth living this life all over again but alas! it’s not to be!
My window to the sky and the celestial views not only bring me incredible joy but keep me grounded firmly to the sphere the movements of which do not terrify me anymore but fascinate me to no end.
Annie Mathew is an educator and writer based in Dubai