It was summer, perhaps June or July, in the Caribbean. I thirteen and at sea sailing aboard the Yankee Clipper. She was an old ship, refurbished for another life as a pleasure craft. I was a too old to be a boy, on another summer holiday with my mother. A well traveled young person, I had never sailed a tall-ship before.

For all of her majesty and luxury, the Yankee Clipper only carried eighty guests and tightly at that. Below the main deck the staterooms and cabins were modest and confined, a stark juxtaposition from the expanse of the ocean for a body salted and slightly burned from the salted ocean air, water, and sun.

Somewhere between two of the Leeward Islands, whose name I can no longer remember, the seas were calm and winds fair enough for the crew to open the top deck at night for guests to sleep on. Awkward with growing limbs and a restless spirit I took the chance to spend the the night out of the confined cabin.

I don't remember anyone else on the deck that particular night, just myself and a thin blue foam pad with a pillow looped out of the same material separating me from the hard wood of the deck, smoothed and coated endless times over by lacquer and sea salt. As I lay, gently rolling with the the ship and the swell she road, listening to the wind fill the sails in the silent way that you feel more than hear, I was utterly struck by the night sky; by its ultimate magnitude.

Far away from the light pollution of civilization, aboard the deck of the Yankee Clipper, the night sky was engulfing—the kind of complete panorama that Science Center planetariums attempt very poorly. One horizon to the other and beyond. I could see the Milky-Way stretch across the sky with its belt of stars so thick that their faint flickers melt together into a glowing haze punctuated by the largest and brightest stars. Suddenly, out of the corner of my field of view, I saw the thin incandescent streak of a shooting-star that lasts only for a moment. As soon as I focused on the one, another would flash in the other corner of my eye, then another.

It took several minutes to adjust to the scale of the action, to learn that not focusing on anything—that keeping my eyes loosely fixed on the center of the night sky, near where Polaris hangs ever vigilant over those who sail the seas of the Northern Hemisphere—was the only way to watch everything. Only by fighting to urge to see the singular with clarity did I realize that I could see the true plurality of the moment, if only obscurely.

The scale of the instance is what shook me; the realization that so much was happening parallel with my existence. The sky I gazed upon somewhere at sea was the same sky I had, and would, gaze upon countless times in countless places. The Milky-Way, the shooting-stars, the total panorama of the sky, these things are always around us regardless of time and place; the great unceasing action of the Universal. The scene shook to my core what it meant to Be: small and brief, concurrent and within the large and extended.