“In your light, we see light.” (Psalm 36:9)
Lalande 21185 is on occasion an unaccountably frustrating object for me, and one capable of defying my every expectation. Of all the stars we will be looking at this year which are below the naked eye threshold of visibility, this star is the brightest. Heck, it’s a no-effort binocular object! Yet for some reason it can be perversely unpredictable (at least for me) in being findable through the eyepiece. Most nights I can casually point my telescope in its general direction and within a matter of seconds I am enjoying the view of this close neighbor and sharing it with others. I meant what I wrote above about how ridiculously easy this star is to locate. Yet other evenings, it stubbornly (and mysteriously) remains somewhere outside of my field of view. Nothing looks familiar. I find myself going back repeatedly over the same star fields without recognizing the crucial signposts that lead one to the next level of search. And persistence seems only to lead to more frustration.
What’s going on here? The stars haven’t changed. I can’t blame the conditions – Lalande 21185 is bright (relatively), for Pete’s sake! I reluctantly conclude that “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves” (Shakespeare, Julius Caesar, Act I, Scene II).
It is nights like these where I am learning (or at the least, Someone is trying to teach me) that my own agenda may not always be in charge – or even remotely what I’m supposed to be doing at a particular moment. Some months ago was just one such night. After 15 minutes or so of trying to spot what should have taken mere seconds, I decided it would be better to walk away from my scope and see what others were looking at and what luck they were having. Before long I was deep in conversation with a good friend who opened up about some terrible difficulties he was experiencing at home just then. We must have talked half the night away and did very little stargazing. It was a night clearly better spent than if I had stubbornly stuck to my plans and spent my time tracking down one impossibly faint object after another.
There’s seeing, and then there is seeing. The psalmist correctly identifies just Who enables our vision, and then provides the light by which we see. I can throw in whatever eyepiece I wish and make all the effort I can muster up, but I guarantee you I won’t see a damn thing if I don’t keep that in mind. As God reminds Job to ask, “Where is the way to the dwelling of light?” That is the star hop we all need to make – continually.