Lights illuminate stairs to Sand Beach in Acadia National Park as stars shine and meteors streak through the night sky in this 2016 file photo. Credit: Courtesy of Dan Little Credit: Courtesy of Dan Little

Not until I moved Down East did I realize the spectacle of a night sky. In all of the previous places I lived, a true appreciation of a sky at night was difficult because of human-made light pollution.

But here in Maine it is quite different. A testament to this fact are two, now very familiar comments made by friends and family having had the opportunity to visit me here in Maine: “I never knew the sea was so blue,” and “I cannot believe this night sky, you can almost touch the stars.”

The night sky is an immense, majestic, living, breathing, wonder of surprise every time I step out my door and look up. Life moves really fast nowadays, and pauses in life are rare, yet so vital to our health. So, when afforded a spectacle of a Maine night sky, I pause underneath its glory and start to think.

I am reminded of a line from the movie “2001: A Space Odyssey.” Near the end of the film, astronaut David Bowman is making his way down the length of the monolith when, all of a sudden, he enters a wormhole. While spiraling down ever-changing corridors of brilliant flashing light, Bowman says, “My God, It’s full of stars.”

The Maine sky at night is certainly full of stars, and, on occasion, thoughts of God enter my mind. Standing underneath it with my head back and eyes wide open, I am in awe of this book of light and time. Yes, it is a book. The light we see sprinkled across the blackness is the light of distant stars coming to our eyes for the very first time. A star is made of a mix of hydrogen and helium, and, depending on its size and age, its light could have traveled millions, sometimes billions, of years for us to see it. Stars still speak a millennium or more, even long after their last breath.

If you connect the dots of light, characters to many stories are revealed in the form of constellations. Up there are animals, poets, kings and queens, lovers and quarrelers, warriors and heroes. Amidst all of that is the cosmic dust of our entire universe.

An infinite table setting of everything that has come before us hangs overhead to give us pause as to where, who and what we have been. It is magical and inspiring to be under its canopy and know you are part of the story.

Up there, in the night sky, the generations of lives that once lived remain with us in a flicker of breath and light; they too, in their own time, stood underneath and gazed into perfection. To follow in their footsteps on a moonless night brings me that much closer. I walk outside. The stars above blink an array of greetings. The waves roll and break, the stones clap and I stand on the shore looking up into a rapture of light, life and story. I point my finger in the direction of Sirius, the dog star, and I think of that childhood lullaby whose lines come from an English poem, “The Star,” written by Jane Taylor in 1806. There are five stanzas in the poem, but the first is the one we all know.

Recalling the words, “Twinkle, twinkle little star, how I wonder what you are,” is when I realize just how small I am in the scheme of the universe. I know my voice is but a faint din in the noise of life. But a voice, any voice — no matter its size, color, or inflection — is important. All voices matter and are only here now because of those who came before. This is very much like those distant points of light mentioned in the third stanza of that same poem, “Then the traveler in the dark, thanks you for your tiny spark; he could not see where to go, if you did not twinkle so.”

I am happy and proud to be where I am in life. I think often of the people who helped me become the person I am today. A wife, a daughter and son, a mom, a dad, brothers, family, ancestors, friends, classmates, co-workers and even random strangers, all of these people, these voices, had a say in who I am. Their stories are what I think of when under this canopy of dazzling light, and I am ever thankful for it all coming together.

Living in Maine, many of my dreams have come true. Yet, still there are times when doubt creeps in and I ask myself, “What’s it all about?” It is then that I take some time for myself, step outside and stand beneath the night sky. I look up to see a loving blanket of shimmering dots of light looking back at me. I am reminded of their journey to give me my journey, and I quietly say to myself, “My God, it truly is full of stars.”

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RJ Heller, Down East contributor

RJ Heller is a journalist, essayist, photographer, author, an avid reader and an award-winning book critic who enjoys sailing, hiking and many other outdoor pursuits. He lives in Starboard Cove.