We Astronomers

- Rebecca Elson from A Responsibility to Awe

We astronomers are nomads,
Merchants, circus people,
All the earth our tent.

We are industrious.
We breed enthusiasms,
Honour our responsibility to awe.

But the universe has moved a long way off.
Sometimes, I confess,
Starlight seems too sharp,

And like the moon
I bend my face to the ground,
To the small patch where each foot falls,

Before it falls,
And I forget to ask questions,
And only count things.

I’ve been reading Rebecca’s work A Responsibility to Awe. It’s a magnificent tribute to some of humanity’s greatest characteristics. Imagination. Wonder. Love. Hope. Reading the 6th line of this poem pricked me deep in my heart. I have been blessed in life. I’ve sat front row to so many awe inspiring events. One event I will never forget is laying out above 13,000 feet in New Mexico on a perfectly clear July evening. I was camped in a saddle and below me a thunderstorm was raging. I was above the clouds. Cracks from lightening bolts echoed for what seemed like hours. Above me was the Milky Way in all her glory. I watched for four hours as she seemed to rotate above me. That evening I realized that while I was insignificant, I was important. I was a part of everything and everything a part of me. I had no purpose that night other than to observe. I think that was enough.

I ended that night counting stars. I counted into the thousands before I fell asleep.