By Bruce Stambaugh
Recently my wife and I watched the International Space Station (ISS) glide stealthily, swiftly and brilliantly through the night sky. As big and bright as it was, it didn’t make a sound.
I instantly thought of my folks, especially Dad, who was an aerospace engineer. Mom and Dad taught my siblings and me to embrace the silence, although I’m not sure we appropriately applied that concept inside our active household.
With my wife by my side, I stood transfixed beneath the emerging sparkling of the heavenly canopy above us. The day’s blustery wind had subsided, allowing the evening’s coolness to further settle the already quiet evening. We focused on the unfolding cosmic concert.
Though we knew when and where to look, the ISS seemed to magically appear out of the gilded southwestern twilight. Its trajectory brought it straight overhead. We followed it far to the northeast until it disappeared close to the eastern horizon.
This wasn’t the first time we had seen the ISS, and it likely won’t be the last. I never tire of scanning the heavens for all things bright and beautiful, natural or humanly contrived.
Even if you didn’t know the schedule, you would recognize the space station if you saw it. There is nothing else in the night sky quite like it. The ISS zips along in a low arch at 17,500 miles per hour. No blinking lights spoil its natural reflective hue.
The ISS can thank the earth’s sun for its golden glow. With the sun’s rays at optimum angle at dusk, they bounced off of the speeding space station during its entire trip across the sky.
As the ISS silently glided through the crystal clear sky, a cow mooed from somewhere in the encroaching darkness. Later, a neighbor’s dog barked twice, then fell silent, too.
The sound of vehicles traveling nearby roads temporarily disrupted the evening’s tranquility. A lone horse and buggy clopped by just as the ISS vanished.
Planets and stars twinkled high above the ISS, which itself was an impressive 230 miles above the earth. Blissful peace surrounded us as we fixed our gaze on mankind’s miracle intersecting with creation’s stunning celestial beauty.
It was marvelous to inhale and enjoy the evening quiet under such an illuminating setting. Once again, my parents were spot on. Silence has its rewards.
This time of year, when the chorus of bird songs fill the air beginning at first light, it definitely is good to listen. Standing under that twinkling umbrella, I reveled in simply listening to the stillness, and observing the sky.
I stood in awe, silently smiling, and watched the ISS smoothly sail across the heavenly sea. Its silence was profound. Neither the noise of speeding traffic nor a mooing cow or a barking dog could mar the inspiring experience.
I learn so much by listening and absorbing. As my parents taught, listening shows respect for all of creation. I consider listening to others, to natural sounds, and the silent sounds as an investment that enriches my life. It costs only my time and attention.
As we viewed the ISS zoom through the magnificent night sky, a new, perhaps more pertinent meaning of the old maxim my folks instilled in me all those years ago literally shown forth. Silence really is golden.
© Bruce Stambaugh 2014