As I sit aloof on a bench atop the fourteen-story high-rise, I am suddenly captivated by the sheer awe of the city in the night-time. The amber lights beam brightly from all four angles. Then I widen my gaze. The brilliance of the waxing, yet nearly complete moon casts a dominating presence over the sky. The stars become few, yet Cassiopeia is still visible. I peer my head over the edge and bear witness to the great space below. With a brisk gust of westerly wind, I contemplate the frightening fall. How alive this makes me feel!
Now, night tucks the day away with the splendid comfort of the cotton candy clouds, covering the candle substitute of moonlight. As one drifts dreamily to sleep, another world awakens… the senses suddenly spark a new life.
The shockingly sour stench of the pooling stagnant water left by a rainfall just a couple days prior leaves my nose hairs leaping with confused excitement. Fortunately, the music of the crickets rubbing legs together gives me a familiar feeling of calm and quietness that I forget about the smell.
I start to think about Scott Kelly on the ISS. In a way, I owe part of my adventure to him. I wanted to experience a similar feeling that he’s going through. Somewhere, up there, he’s circling ’round bringing his one year in space closer to a close. How is he coping with being so far from home? Not only family, but home being the only rock humans have even been able to call home. In a sense he’s away from two homes…
While I am the farthest from home I have ever been, I contemplate whether I can really feel the distance. If I feel farther away from home now than I did when I was in Argentina or Peru. When the distance that’s being compared surpasses the point of familiarity, what difference does it really make? For Scott its different. Not only is he living farther than any other human has ever lived from home for as long as a year, he has the uncanny experience of passing by his home 15.54 times every day. It’s as if the closer you get to getting what you want, that exciting feeling brews a lovely batch. In the blink of an eye, suddenly you start moving further away, only to repeat the process again and again never having received your bubbly brew. Not only does he have to deal with being away from home; he has to cope with his home constantly coming within reach and then going away again. What does this do to a human-being?
Although, Scott is allotted one advantage over the rest of us. An advantage, I would argue, that makes all the pain of homesickness worth its while. That is the ability to look back at the place we call home and bear witness to its entire beauty. How often have you sat across your street to view the house you grew up in? Not only see it with your eyes, but really see it for everything it has made you become? Scott gets to do this not only 15.54 times in a day, but every moment he gets a chance to look out a window. He gets to do this not only for himself, but for every human-being that has ever lived.
So as I sit atop the fourteen-story high-rise, I look up at the moon and stars, lightly covered by patches of clouds; slightly intoxicated, but alive as I have felt at the peaks of Machu Picchu to the peaks of the Pacific Crest; I think about time in the context of the mountains and the stars. The entire human existence passes by like a rain drop on a puddle. Everything is moving so fast.. spinning out of control… flying this way and that… and then nothing.
In a flash, I am transported back to this moment. The stench of the water on the ground greets me with a comforting calamity. The song of the rubbing legs enlightens my ears. The subtle spinning of the air vent towers reorient me to the city below. And as I gaze back at the changing aperture of the moon, I am reminded of the beauty of life once again. The human perspective is but an insignificant blip in the course of the universe. From here, though, we can witness all the beauty that passes within a single flutter of a butterflies wing.