note: a popular blog post that first appeared on November 13, 2016 at www.thehomeroad.com
One morning on a trek route scouting trip through Western Maine, Dad and I stopped for a late breakfast. The restaurant was off the beaten path, and we had it almost to ourselves. There were old photos of the area on the walls around the dining room, and naturally curious, we walked around with our faces leaning in to the images reading captions.
On one end of the room, there were windows that looked out on an old train depot, remnants overgrown by time and nature. I was standing in front of a photo on this wall when a young waitress came up behind me and sighed. She looked out the window and said, “yep….that used to be the history of it.”
There was something so poetic about that.
It’s a life moment I can slip myself back into with ease, her words hanging in my memory like they hung in that room. The photo I was looking at was a picture of the train depot back in the day, its busier former self framed and mounted against the backdrop of its quiet today outside the windows.
I bet I’ve thought of those words two hundred times since then and even borrowed them a few times. They have an innocent way of expressing a particular sense of melancholy when thinking about how a place or things used to be.
I was reminded of the young waitress’ sage comment again on Sunday, looking up at the super moon and stars.
Light from the moon takes 1.3 seconds to reach us and light from the sun takes about 8 minutes. The next nearest star is Proxima Centauri and its light takes over four years to get to us.
Most of the light our eyes see from twinkling stars has taken hundreds to a couple thousand years to get to us. Light from Polaris, the North Star, for example, has been on a 430 year journey; which means what we see out there tonight left in the late 1500's! That’s a heckuva trek.
In a way, astronomy is a history lesson. In some cases, ancient history. Telescopes are able to see objects so far away that their light is millions and billions of years old. Imagine. Our view of the universe- what we look up to for inspiration, navigation, knowledge and direction - is a great big window on the past.
That bends my mind about as far as it can go without pulling a muscle.
Tonight as I stand gazing out my bedroom window on ancient light arriving in the form of a twinkling star, the magic phrase applies… yep, that used to be the history of it.