Twinkle, twinkle little star……..

Twinkle twinkle little star
How I wonder what you are?
Up above the world so high
Like a diamond in the sky

Twinkle, twinkle, little star
How I wonder what you are?

Jane Taylor

The year was 1980. I was the medical office aboard the US Navy replenishment ship, USS Wabash (AOR-5). We had completed a six-month deployment to the Western Pacific and were docked in the Naval Base Subic Bay, Phillipines preparing to return stateside when we received word of the takeover of the US Embassy in Tehran, Iran. Our operational plans made a 180 degree turn as we loaded up on food, ammunition, and aviation fuel in order to ship out to the Indian Ocean in support of Naval operations to deal with the crisis. A few weeks later, we were on station, making regular round trips from Diego Garcia, a tiny island in the Maldives, to the Persian Gulf and back.

There is not much for a physician to due on a ship with 500 healthy young men, so my clinic duties rarely took up more than a couple of hours in the morning. Besides reading, writing letters, and doing health inspections in the galley and engine spaces, I had lots of down time. It was during this period that I discovered the night sky for the second time in my life.

The first time was on a European trip with a high school classmate in 1971. In our travels, Kurt and I hiked across the Oberer Grimwald glacier and up the lower slopes of the Wetterhorn to a small lodge with a detached dormitory. This was as far as we went, but for many others, it was the jumping off point for some serious alpine mountaineering. We had a simple, but delicious dinner of split pea soup and crusty bread and slept in the dorm with dozens of hikers and climbers. Late in the evening, I went outside and walked a short way from the lights of the lodge. I lay back on a rock and looked up at the night sky. I had never seen such clarity. I have never pursued astronomy as a hobby and cannot identify constellations, stars, planets, and such, but the sky was spectacular. Over the next hour, I saw more stars than I imagined possible, constellations, and meteor showers. I was impressed for the first time by the magnitude of the universe around us and I remember feeling very small. The experience was profoundly spiritual as I contemplated the vastness above and the miniscule place occupied by our planet and me. It was profoundly humbling as well.

One Comment, RSS

  1. Astronomy has always fascinated me. Like you, I saw the stars on my numerous backpacking trips in the High Sierra Mountains of California. Nature makes us realize how small we are but also how remarkable and beautiful is our world. I relish those days on the trail and the nights staring at a night sky. Sadly so few know it’s beauty.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *