I first discovered the art of falling upwards as boy.
Summer nights in Melbourne were often sweltering ordeals, especially during periods of long, drawn out heat waves. At such times the family home, a smallish three bedroom brick veneer with terracotta roof tiles and no insulation, became a virtual oven. Even with all the windows open, the house would tenaciously hold onto the daytime heat the entire night. And of course domestic air conditioners were a fantasy, something that wouldn’t become a reality for decades. Getting any quality sleep in such conditions was always a sweaty challenge.
My dad, though, came up with a solution of sorts. During the hottest nights he would setup two camp beds outside in the slightly cooler back yard. And that’s where he and I would sleep. It was never a slumber party with chitchat and all the rest. My dad would fall asleep almost as soon as he lay down.
But not me. Instead I’d lie there on the camp bed for what seemed like hours, gazing up at the star-filled summer sky. Even in the suburbs with its profusion of street lights, I could still see a myriad of stars and the glowing dust between.
My imagination would first run wild, imagining all sorts of fantastic scenarios where I was traveling between the stars on huge, exotic space liners. As the evening progressed, story on story piled up in my head.
Eventually, though, with the beginnings of sleep settling down around me, the space liners would flicker and fade until only the sky’s vast dome remained. Through sleep-heavy eyes I’d continue looking, trying to see deeper into something I knew went on and on forever.
And that’s when it would begin.
Trying to wrap your head around infinity either frustrates you to such a degree that you give up the effort completely, or you simply surrender into the unknowable. Without realizing I’d made any such decision, I’d find myself embracing the impossible.
Of course I never actually moved from my camp bed in that suburban backyard. Instead it was my consciousness that took flight. It would begin reaching out to meet the beckoning vastness above, and accompanying that reaching was a sense of falling upwards. It was a gentle yet compelling movement that carried me ever closer to an embrace with the deepening stillness.
It would go on and on till sleep finally claimed me.