In a world so far removed from the one that I was used to, I expected every aspect of living here to be the antithesis of my other life. I thought the days would be busy and raucous, and the clear skies at night a reason to indulge in the tranquility of isolation. I was wrong, of course.
Night begins early and creeps in slowly here. The grasshoppers reverberate in chorus and the clouds are dusted with a pink glow – the sinking sun kisses my face before melting into the lagoon. As dusk arrives, the magenta sky is quickly crowded with waves of sweeping seabirds, croaking like old doors and moaning like ghosts as they return to land after fishing from the first moments of dawn. The moon illuminates the white cheeks of Bonin petrels and the grey underbellies of wedge-tailed shearwaters. They seem to tumble out of the sky all around us, the ground near our feet alive with furious digging and awkward stumbling on weary sea-legs – the clamouring calls of Kure’s inhabitants debriefing the day, making the ground boom.
As the tumult simmers down, the birds gradually begin to share the sky with the stars, and the world suddenly seems a lot bigger…or maybe even smaller. The night sky here is so beautiful; a swirling blanket of darkness, dense splatters of light, shooting stars and satellites from time to time – a reminder that civilisation does exist somewhere past the borders of our reef. There is no light pollution, no cities or skyscrapers lit up like Christmas trees; the sky is pure darkness and brightness, untouched.
A wise man once told me to look at the stars and try to picture them as more than just that – not just twinkling sparkles in the sky, but the planets and satellites, as cosmic balls of light millions of miles away that may no longer even exist. To be able to do that without my brain exploding was a difficult task, but when everything clicked and all of a sudden I’d shrunk to the size of an ant, my view of the galaxy became just that little bit clearer.
It’s a powerful struggle between wonderful and terrifying, but my existential fear of space is over-ruled by how truly lucky I am to see the stars as clear as they are over us at night. It reminds me of the night sky over Aotea – Great Barrier Island, where Auckland is too far away to bother us and the Southern Cross sits pride of place overhead. Two wondrous places, Kure and Aotea, full of seabirds and wildlife, both sharing in the knowledge that their pristine skies and flourishing te Taiao is due to vibrant expanses of ocean and the gentle hands of people who‘ve taken the time to be guardians. The world is a better place when havens like this exist.