The dog wakes me out of a sound sleep at 4 am. Stumbling, grumbling, definitely up there on the cranky meter, I yank on coat, boots and grab a flashlight. We clump down the stairs and into the night. I sweep the flashlight hoping to avoid skunks and other creatures on the prowl. Quietly but forcefully, I suggest to the dog that she ‘just do it.’ Is that where Nike people got the idea for their iconic campaign? From some poor schlub standing outside in the middle of the night, sleepy, shivering, hissing at their dog who is blissfully nosing about in the grass ‘Do it! Just do it!’

Success. She pees and poops, a double-header. We turn to go in and finally, finally I look up.

The sky is breathtaking. I stand there awestruck at the sight. So many stars…I look for my favorite constellations (the only ones I actually know) and feel comforted when I spot them. They orient me to this time and place.

How often over the years have I been transfixed by the beauty of the night sky? My earliest memories of stargazing come from when I was a small child visiting relatives in the Adirondacks…with no ambient light from nearby cities, the number and brilliance of stars overhead was a revelation.

In adolescence, I looked up at the stars seeking answers, escape…yearning for a more peaceful, more fulfilling life. Wanting…more…just more.

During college I often used to sit outside at night, usually after the breakup of one relationship or another and soothe myself with thoughts of constancy and ‘this too shall pass.’ I imagined all the people throughout the ages who looked for comfort, for direction, under these very same stars.

There are those who feel that knowing too much about the world around us diminishes the experience, takes away from the wonder. The idea that there can a downside to knowledge or the quest for knowledge baffles me. The images from the Hubble for instance did not detract from my appreciation of the universe. Just the opposite. I was amazed and excited at those glimpses of a life far beyond what we now know.

Understanding how a natural process works isn’t akin to revealing the man behind the curtain. It isn’t like dialing down the colors of the universe from hundreds to just a few. It is, in the end, an act of love to want to learn all we can about our world.

The true magic, the authentic wonder, is in the knowing.

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