The Notepad is a monthly column written by Ruby Claire exploring what it means to be a guest on this wild and abundant planet. Most of these thoughts have been scribbled, in some way, in the notepad she carries in her backpack (or pannier).


Six friends are spread out on the grass, their heads on stomachs and pillows, looking up at a sea of stars.


The Warrumbungles is the first Dark Sky National Park in Australia and it’s no wonder.

For the next hour, before the moon rises, they’ll watch satellites pass overhead and shooting stars make a scribble across the dark blue.

Someone will show them how to find north using the Southern Cross and another how to spot the emu in the Milky Way.



The expansiveness of the night sky terrifies me. The reality is, the only thing separating me from OUT THERE is a bit of gravity. Without that, my paper cutout form would just float away.

If Elon Musk waltzed into my life and offered me a seat on the Starship I think I’d say no.

I like it here. I’m happy to stick to the surface of the Earth and let the magic of the unknown remain that way.

What I love about spending time outside is that nature provides safe spaces to talk about things you might otherwise avoid if you were jammed into a booth in an overly stimulating pub. In nature there’s space for huge claims about life.

Someone brings up God and someone brings up the need for hope and another raises the magic of science. You sit back and watch the horizon line and listen to the trees while you consider your answers.


Most of the time we tend to simmer safely above the surface, above the whirl of grief and shame and childlike delight. We try to ‘play it cool’.

Why make things so SERIOUS? Why can’t you just RELAX and CHILL OUT and HAVE FUN? Often we cut the bud before it blooms

‘Dude are you high or what?’ or ‘Wow, that’s deep… anyway, more firewood?’.

How easy it is to run from vulnerability by changing the topic, or making the person who made the first step feel kind of silly.



But when we give in, it’s nice. It’s nice to air the things we feel. It’s nice to realise our friends, many of whom we’ve known for decades (but not really known-known) feel the same way, have the same questions and fears, or even different ones, ones we wouldn’t expect.



As the six friends lie on the grass in silence, Hayden interrupts.

‘Isn’t it crazy that we live on a planet?! I literally snowboard on a planet!’

And so the conversation veers into spirituality and science. The friends steer clear of conversations about ‘our problems being so small’ – reflections which still direct one’s attention to oneself, and position humanity as the centre of the universe – and steer them outward. Out there. Up into the sky and beyond the mountain range.

Sometimes it feels a little silly, and maybe even futile – one will never truly understand – but for the friends, it’s important to breathe life into the thoughts that live inside their head sometimes.