I grew up in eastern South Dakota. Two of the things I have always loved about that place are the vast skies and the way the tall grass on the open prairie ripples like waves on a lake, tossed by the nearly incessant wind. Squint a little and you can see the past, into a time before the towns, the highways, the wire and post fences and the yellow squares of lamplight signalling home existed. When there are no houses or buildings around to distract you from your smallness, you get a sense of proportion that is a gentle reminder of our true size in this incomprehensibly enormous universe. One can get a unique kind of clarity experiencing the wide open.
When I was young, I couldn’t wait to get away from the home where it seemed like there was nothing but earth and sky and judgment. I rushed off to experience noise and activity and possibility. Now, saturated with noise and activity, and grieving the crushing death of many of those possibilities, I fantasize about building myself a little cabin off the grid on a small rise in the middle of as much empty as I can find. I long for a place in the openness between earth and sky, where I might quietly wait to see what possibilities clarity can bring.
One of my bests from childhood was sky-watching. We lived on the flat, open prairie, with few houses or buildings to significantly block the horizon in any direction. On our deck in the company of family or friends, I watched thunderstorms build from miles away and approach with lightning and thunder rocking the sky and earth, only driving us in when wind and rain reached us under the rooftop overhang. The Northern Lights danced the skies in silence more rarely, silencing us in its beauty. On clear nights in all seasons I’d lie down in the front yard, far enough from everything that all I could see was the sky. Without trees or buildings in your peripheral vision to anchor you, you perceive that you are truly on a sphere in space. That up is no different from down and instead of securely looking up at the sky, you are suspended above the deepest abyss of indigo, midnight and black, set with blazing and muted planets, stars and galaxies, with our own galaxy, indeed, a faded milky streak across the panorama, so impossibly distant it is hard to believe it is home.
The infinite is all around us, all the time. We and everything around us are made up of unimaginably small particles that are buzzing around furiously, as we are suspended in an incomprehensibly large universe full of uncounted objects that are also in constant motion. Quantum and cosmic meet inside our minds where we ponder these great unfolding mysteries. This comforts me on days when little things insist they are a big deal.