Ian sat down alone at the top of the hill behind his home. He liked to visit that spot when he wanted to calm down, when he was feeling sad or simply when he wanted to escape his worldly issues. He could feel the dirt below his hands, cool, dry. The fresh winds that came from the north entered his lungs filling them with a kind of magic. Each breath he took scattered oxygen through his blood, energizing his every cell, and in that place below the dark sky it made him feel alive.
He looked up at it, admiring the many thousands upon thousands of stars that shined at him. They waved hello in their own language, glowing with power from across the vastest of distances, reaching his eyes through what seemed like infinity. An occasional bird flew above him and he wondered, do they ever look up at stars at night? In their busy schedule of finding food for the their little ones, of protecting them from predators and surviving trough every day life, do they ever stop a moment? Maybe a fraction of a moment, a pause between feeding their young and repairing their nest, an accidental look at the sky, and do they in that instant of splendor know they are part of something so much bigger than them? Ian bet they did. Every animal on Earth on occasion looks up and in their primitive minds rejoice in great awe, but to Ian it was different. He knew that for every single star he could see, for every twinkling little dot in the heavens there were a million million more of them behind it, too far away for our simple eyes to detect.
The number of them was unfathomable for even the grandest of minds. He tried to imagine them, every world circling its own unique star. He knew there were others out there building cities, having families, swimming in strange oceans, flying in colorful skies, walking through deserts, forests and jungles and he was sure that they too, on occasion, looked up at the stars. Maybe he was inadvertently looking at another boy sitting on another world of a distant star.
Ian took a deep breath of the cool air and exhaled a mix of oxygen, carbon, nitrogen and other gases and he closed his eyes to imagine himself sitting there as if being watched from above. Far above. A speck of nothing suspended in the void in the outer reaches of one of the long arms of our galaxy. The milky way turned majestically around its bright center and as Ian was suspended there above the galaxy he looked behind and around it, and if he was feeling small he felt a trillion times smaller still. Around the milky way a billion little lights sparkled at him, sending their photons towards him. An incomprehensible amount of other galaxies flying through the universe, each with a history of billions of years, each with its million million stars, each home to myriad different peoples and animals. His mind could barely take it, the enormity of it. The idea that every single speck in the void was in and of itself a little universe.
Ian opened his eyes. A little grasshopper had jumped beside him and it was chirping away, calling for company, calling for someone to be with it during the night.
“I’m here little brother”, said Ian and the small grasshopper fell quiet, listening to what he had to say.
“You can spend the night with me. I know I’m not your kind, and I know you think I’m way too big. But really, I’m only a little less small than you.”
The grasshopper jumped and landed on Ian’s leg. There it continued to chirp, no longer calling for company but celebrating their little spot atop the hill, their little place in the cosmos.