Largest auditorium on planet is free to all

Moon in night sky N FL

It’s easy to be frustrated these days, and even easier if you’re an artist working in any genre or medium. Some of us thrive on freedom of movement, and on interacting with different types of people. This isn’t as practical to do now that healthy and sick alike are abiding by quarantine-like conditions. No concerts, theatrical productions, sporting events, and such without proper social distancing.

There is a source of inspiration for us, though, and that source has inspired some of the most remarkable art in history. It’s free to all.

Every night of my life, for as long as I can remember, I’ve entered the largest auditorium on the planet.

The stage holds the night sky (Article continues after image).

Perseid Meteor
A Perseid meteor over Daytona Beach, FL. Perseids are known for being bright and fast, traveling 132,000 mph. Image and caption: NASA/MEO

In Florida, there are all manner of creatures scrambling nearby at night. Owls. Possums. Raccoons. An occasional fox. Bats. Snakes. Cute frogs. My neighbor’s kitty cat who has adopted me as nocturnal buddy. The ground is most definitely a stage, but the far distant night sky as stage features productions that can leave you breathless.

As July simmers into August here, we nocturnal types can look forward to the Perseids. If you’ve never watched a meteor shower, try it. You have to be patient, but it’s worth your time. The Perseids will peak here, according to Old Farmer’s Almanac, on August 12 and 13.

According to OFA, the Perseids were first noted in a manuscript in 36 AD. Pondering that long thread of star gazers sets a creative mind to wandering. One of the most remarkable minds in Western art apparently shared that view.

Vincent van Gogh, an enduring influence on Western art, left behind more than 800 paintings. One of the most well known is “The Starry Night”. I love that painting in part because the sky triumphs over everything below, including things that are manmade. You could study that painting for hours and get lost in the journey it sets your mind on.

Eighty years later Don McClean penned the classic song “Vincent”, popularly called “Starry, Starry Night.” I think that song is one of the greatest of our day, in terms of both lyrics and score. Every time I listen to it, the pain van Gogh must have experienced is palpable. I feel the same way when I look at his paintings.

Poets have long studied the moon and stars, and I’m no exception. When I’m outside at night and the world has temporarily gone quiet, that’s when I feel the most contemplative. I also feel a kinship with my ancestors, pagans who were converted to Christianity (article continues after image).

Minerva at Thomas Jefferson Memorial
Highsmith, Carol M, photographer. Great Hall. Detail of paired sculptures of Minerva of Peace and Minerva of War. Library of Congress Thomas Jefferson Building, Washington, D.C. Washington D.C, 2007. Photograph.

One of Robert Frost’s poems that may be new to many is “Stars.” The reference to Minerva is, in my opinion, a wonderful motif for the sensation of the vast whiteness of snow covered ground. Minerva’s association with the arts makes for perfect symbolism.

As we struggle with limitations because of a virus impacting not only our lives and incomes but doing the same to those in Europe, we can take comfort in the offerings of the night sky and of nature’s creatures. We can remind ourselves we aren’t the first to suffer, and we won’t be the last. We can also remind ourselves that those who came before us suffered mightily, yet we are here today.

When I’m star gazing, I think about those who met and mated, and I’m grateful they did. I’m also aware of similarities in those ancient ancestral groups to those today:

“Celtic social structure radiated outward from the family to the extended family, clan, tribe and tribal alliances. “In Gaul,” Julius Caesar wrote in his Commentaries on the Gallic War, “there are factions, not only in every state and every village and district but practically in each individual household as well.”

Next time you’re bored with streaming or the mindless content coming from your TV, switch off and wander outside for a bit. You’ll witness the greatest production on the greatest stage mankind has ever known.

(Kay B. Day/July 29, 2020)

CD by Nancy Wilson Buckler
CD by Nancy Wilson Buckler

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