Festivals of trees, lights and straight on til morning

The Boothbay Region Garden Club welcomed hundreds to the third annual Festival of Trees this past weekend. Dozens of clever and beautiful trees created by members of the Club, local businesses and individuals lit up the historic Opera House. And now we turn to the festival of light – the infinite demonstrations that in the midst of the darkest season of the year, we turn to light – to candles, to holiday events, and to the Solstice to remind us that light does come again. And just as each sunrise here in the “Dawnland” of midcoast Maine is the start of a fresh day, the return of the sun means there is hope for growing things and finding our way. The festivals of lights in all our cultures lift us from dark-ness.

And that is why we need Orion. The constellation and the orbital test vehicle.

We look to the stars on the summer nights here at Spruce Point – a place where city people can see, sometimes for the first time, the great sweep of the Milky Way. We greet the stars in the winter as companions – Orion, the Big and Little Dippers, the “morning star” (actually the planet Venus) on December mornings. We look up. And out. And imagine.

We can (and have) put human knowledge in digital form and shipped it out to the universe. We’ve put research vehicles on extra-terrestrial surfaces to look for rocks and water and strands of proto-life. We have images and data and physical samples pricelessly transported on human-built technology.

But when Man steps into the stars we will take our dearest treasures: our hopes, dreams, loves and imaginations. The stuff that animates our story. What we know as the poetic and the beautiful. The spirit — that is more than nerve endings — that distinguishes darkness from light and calls us to dance.

The scientists explain how we are made of stardust. But only the human imagination can tell why that image conjures up dreams that turn the darkest evenings of the year to something magical. We need humans on the moon, on Mars and in the stars to put humanity and all its wonders into the dark space. Just like the small child at our campfire, looking up at the stars, we need the wonder, “out there.” Past the second star to the right …and straight on til morning.