14 January 2009

when did you first realize that planets were smaller than stars? i think i only understood this recently.

i’ve been here for three weeks, where everything has a place, but i can’t find the big dipper.
when i was tiny, my dad would wake me at that time between late late night and morning [there’s a word for that in spanish, it’s “madrugada.” i like how they have words for things that we have to explain with a whole sentence. it’s like they understand something that i ruin with too many adjectives or too much explanation] to show me the stars. even in the spring it would be cold that early, so he would wrap me up in the afghan his grandma made for us and carry me outside. the streetlights on our road seemed like they were always burnt out; the only thing lighting up the night was the moon right above us and it was changing every night. he’d try to show me orion, but there were too many stars for me to tell where he started or ended. or cassiopeia, because she was a queen and was like our name. but all those stars were too dim from my driveway. so he would hold me on his back with one arm and point with the other at the two pine trees across the street and i would find the constellation between them.

every night since i’ve been back, there’s been so much sky. i look toward the two familiar trees, but i just can’t see the big dipper. i’ve noticed that some of my streetlights have been replaced, lighting up the neighborhood while they mute the skies, but i doubt this newness is what clouds the reminder of my little memory.

stars are ubiquitous; no matter where you go, they’re right there above you. my grandpa taught me this word when i still lived in pittsburgh, and told me that god was ubiquitous.

see? this is safe. i can submerge myself in it without losing everything else. i won’t drown.

last summer, i was worried about the one star that burned weaker than the other six. i know it’s been working so hard for so many years, but i hope it doesn’t fade completely, at least not while i’m still looking at it. i wonder if that is a completely selfish wish. then i wonder if it’s already dead and maybe we’re just seeing leftover light. the message [“goodnight, ladies and gentlemen. thank you for coming to the show.”] hasn’t gotten to us yet.

the thing about night is that you can feel the darkness. it’s like when you see stars from somewhere where nothing else is. with no lights to dim their brilliance, you realize how many there really are, filling in the space in between the ones you see every night. because that only happens when you’re far away from everything else.

and then there’s tying memories to something big, something in the sky that everyone else can taste, if they want to. it’s more universal than having thoughts about books or songs, and no one can talk about it, not if they want it to stay real. you throw a rope up above your head and bind just a speck of yourself to your star. you let your ideas swirl around—they’re there in case someone wants to share with you, but you’re content knowing they’ve been thought.


caitlin said...

this was kind of really beautiful. i sometimes think that about the stars too, i know it's kind of cheesy to say, but it is amazing to think about all the other people looking up at the same stars, it definitely makes the world seem just a bit smaller. anyway, this was awesome, i wish you wrote more frequently cause it's always great.

laura said...

i feel you on the cheese v. depth thing; sometimes that line is pretty thin. [but i still like the stars. like, a lot.] and also: thankssss.