There was a scene in the movie “Contact” in which the protagonist Ellie Arroway is propelled on a cosmic voyage across time and space. She gets to a place where the awesome majesty of the heavens is spread out before her and she gawks at what she is seeing and stammers, “No –no words. No words to describe it. Poetry! They should’ve sent a poet. So beautiful. So beautiful…I had no idea.” They should’ve sent a poet. Tonight as I was driving home from work on my usual hour-plus commute, I came around a arcing curve on the Beltway and although I was surrounded by hundreds of cars, their bright tail lights and headlights shining all around me, what caught my attention, there in front of me was an enormous, orange sherbet colored moon, seemingly resting on the edge of the Beltway. It was caught off guard by this stunning sight, to the point that I almost ran into the cars in front of me because I looking at it instead of the paying attention to my speed. For the next several minutes of the drive I rode along with my phone in my lap set to camera, because I was so enthralled I was determined to take a picture of it. It ducked behind trees and buildings, hillsides and road signs, hiding from me. It wasn’t until a few hours after I’d gotten home that I could finally get a good look at it, but by then it had risen high into the sky and lost its orange-golden effervescence and was more the standard whitish color that we’re used to seeing when we see the moon. It is nevertheless still beautiful, in spite of its characteristic milkiness and regular size.
When I witness such things I am continually reminded of how very very small we humans are in the scheme of things. Oh we humans think the universe revolves around us, and I would suggest that some of us in the more “developed” nations in the world would say that the world revolves around us in particular. But the truth is, we are so small when we stand in the majestic beauty of nature, particularly beneath celestial bodies that stir our souls and fire our imaginations. I am as delighted by my reaction to seeing the moon as by the moon itself. I want to feel that sense of wonder when I see such awesome beauty. And while I haven’t seen the planets, stars, and galaxies like the fictional Ellie Arroway did, I have seen things that left me speechless and wishing I could find words to describe them.
Life is filled with challenges and obstacles, as well as the mundane aspects of every day living: of meetings and emails and papers at work to walking the dog, bringing in the mail, and taking out the trash at home. I am always so delighted when suddenly, in the midst of the mundanity, something so spectacular appears as to take my breath away. Tonight it pumped a small burst of energy into what had been an excruciatingly exhausting drive home. No words to describe it, Ellie gasps as she tries to make sense of what she’s seeing. These are the small moments that transform the ordinary into the extraordinary, the mundane to the magnificent. They happen with wonderfully random unpredictability. They should have sent a poet, but they sent me instead, and I am all the richer for it.