The Milky Way

The Milky Way

The other night, when we weren’t turned north, looking for dancing lights in the sky, we looked south at the milky way. Looking south and looking away from the setting sun, the sky was always darker there, but even as full darkness fell, it became apparent that that corner of the sky was still darker. This is probably because there is even less light pollution in the national forest than there is looking out across the lake, where we could still see the multitude of red lights atop the Canadian windmills. Where we live in the heart of Saint Louis, one cannot see many stars. Even up here at the cabin on the shores of Lake Superior, the amount of light pollution has grown such that you cannot see the stars like we saw them that night. Still, they way brighter here than they are at home. 

There is something primordial about looking at the milky way. Looking at the light from millions of stars that is already millennium old, in its vast journey to my eyes. Couple this sight with the sounds of lapping waves, a gentle breeze, the buzzing of insects and the whole general ambience of the great north woods, one is left with feelings of a religious experience. Was this all put here for me?

At the other end of the spectrum from the eternal lies the ephemeral, which is no better personified than by the mayfly. The other night, after the rains finally ceased, there was a large hatch and the beach was all aflutter with swarms of flying Canadian soldiers, ready to do the dirty and then die. The fish ate well that night. One has to wonder how many days, while it continued to rain that week that this multitude waited to reproduce? The mayfly is an archaic insect with traits like long tails and wings that do not fold flat over the abdomen that mark its specie’s ancient ancestry. There have been mayflies long before there were humans and there will likely still be mayflies long after we’re gone.

It is a funny world that we live in. I read The Atlantic’s Peter Brannen article about the Great Dying that end-Permian event (252.2 million years ago) when life almost exterminated itself. Volcanic activity had ignited the already abundant deposits of fossil fuels, which escalated into a runaway greenhouse effect that nearly caused the seas to boil (165 ºF). [The water’s warm, come on in!] Life on this planet almost went extinct and many species did not survive. Fossil records and the other night’s big hatch indicate that mayflies survived though. Humans were still many epochs away from arrival upon the scene. The only way we know about these things is through observation, deduction and the clever use of the intellects that God chose to grace us with. So, please use yours!

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