November 9, 2020

Heavens Above

At the end of every evening, whatever the weather, a melee of enthusiastic dogs and I head out for a final walk. Without the compelling need of the dogs, I am sure I would stay inside and some evenings when I walk out into dense swirling rains and blustery winds my sortie is brief.

On most evenings, however, I look up at the skies with awe and amazement, glad I have stepped out. To quote Vincent van Gogh “For my part I know nothing with any certainty, but the sight of the stars makes me dream.“

The night sky is an extraordinary immense, immemorable black sphere. Lit by thousands of stars it is both the same and everchanging. From different vantage points we all see the same half circle wherever we live. Our ancestors saw it and we hope that our descendants too will look up and wonder in years to come. The stars and planets move through their cycles depending on the seasons of the year and where we are standing. Over this strange last year, I have watched the hero Arturus move around the sky, Jupiter and Saturn were brilliant and sitting just above the Castle to the south as I walked across the field whilst Mars, the red planet, is as strong today as the legendary figure after which it was named.

Since the earliest stories and myths, our behaviour both good and bad has been translated into patterns in the stars: the Bear, Cassiopeia, Perseus, the zodiac signs, Orion and so on. In fact, archaeologists found the earliest known depiction linked to the constellation of Orion in a prehistoric carving in a cave in the Ach valley in south west Germany which is more than 30,000 years old. In ancient Egypt the stars of Orion were thought to represent the god Sah whilst his consort Sopdet was the goddess of the star Sirius.

Homer’s Iliad charts the story of Orion the hunter and the star Sirius which is mentioned as his dog. Today this collection of stars remains attributed to Orion the hunter, wearing his belt with the faint suggestion of an arrow. He was brave but also flawed.

Each evening walk marks a more peaceful time away from noisy human activity, a rarely found time to pause and stand and stare. This week marks another such time when, at 11am on November 11th, we stand silent for 2 minutes to remember the undone years of those who fought in the two world wars and in every conflict since. They cannot gaze up at the stars and their countless deaths are hard to comprehend.

They were the much-loved sons, husbands and brothers who stood shoulder to shoulder and now lie side by side where the poppies grow, marked by immense fields of white crosses.  Any of us looking up on a good clear night should be able to see up to 5,000 stars. It may seem like millions but puts into perspective the untold quantity of war dead, of those who have served and saved. Their bravery and heroism may not be marked by myths depicted in the stars and epics such as the Iliad but it is just as real.

“Silently, one by one, in the infinite meadows of heaven,
Blossomed the lovely stars, the forget-me-nots of the angels.”
― Henry Wadsworth Longfellow,

To honour them in these times of social distancing and closed churches, Geordie and I thought we would congregate by our cedar airman at 11am on the 11th. We will share it through Instagram so please do join us to pause and reflect. On a practical note, please can I also ask you to help some of the charities for those who serve and save – we have listed them on our website, the first box, and in return we are offering a few dreams. Please share.It is up to us to make a change, even if by only a little “It is not in the stars to hold our destiny but in ourselves.“