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the stars at night are big and bright

August 25, 2011

So, before I forget, I’d like to update you on a couple of ongoing projects.

1).  Frida continues to live happily in our apartment kitchen.  I took the advice of my green-thumbed grandmother and am watering her less than I think I should.  Benign neglect seems to be working.

2).  I’ve been diligently practicing my handstands, much to the amusement of my family.  It may just be my imagination, but, with each attempt, I believe I’m staying upright a bit longer.

Today I’m considering astronomy, a field that dwells both in science and in nature.

Ah, Vincent.

Tell me if this sounds familiar:

On your back, chin tilted, the canopy of heaven black and pin-pricked, you tried your damnedest to see the bear or the belt or the flaring vessel.  Campfired, s’mored, and ghost-storied, you looked for falling stars that everyone else seemed to find.  While the other kids “oooohed” and “aaahhhed” at the planetarium, eyes alight with fabricated shapes in a midday sky, you pretended to see.  You joined the group.  “Oh, yeah…” you slapped your forehead, “THERE it is.  Orion’s BELT.  I see it NOW.”

(You never saw.  Just a wide black sky with blue-white patterns, nothing more to greet you… you big faker).

You wanted so badly to connect those heavenly dots, but where the others saw dogs or crabs or water-bearers, you saw…  light.  In the grand scheme of things though, missing out on the stars is such an infinitesimal heartbreak.  Such a little tear, really, when it comes the open wounds of the heart.

In a little while, I hope you will read the story of  Diane Daniel.  She’s an accomplished writer and the wife of first a man, now a woman (reserve your judgment or pity, if you can, until you read her piece).

I sat in the pew behind Diane and her spouse many times at our North Carolina UU fellowship over the past decade, absently noting the couple’s leaned-in whispers, her hand-tooled leather bag, his hand on her knee.  They were and are so obviously in love.

Reading Diane’s Modern Love column in last week’s New York Times, “My Husband is Now My Wife,” shifted me in my seat.  If you know me, you know that I generally avoid discussing potentially inflammatory subjects, like gender politics.  I have no interest in converting anyone to my religion or my perspective. I’m a “let love rule” kind of person; an endorser of the “live and let live” philosophy.  However, neither of my (admittedly reductionist) approaches captures the complexity of Diane’s experiences, and I dare you to read her piece and emerge unaffected.   Whatever your political or religious affiliations, I challenge you to read it with an open mind.

This is important to me because, if I’m really honest, I believe that the kind of love she writes about — intricate, textured, messy, imperfect — is God.  Love through the ache and the ugly and the terrifying is nothing less than God.

I also know this:  no matter who you are, where you live, or with whom you lie, we’re all sharing this blanket of stars.  See them or not, they are there — glowing earnestly, connected by ancient diagrams and wide open spaces, obscured by what we’ve built to protect us.

In the interest of chasing both a nature and a science maybe, I’m researching astronomy.  I’m checking out this night sky that’s held nothing but mystery (okay, and frustration) for me all of these years.  I’m making a promise to let you know when I see something real.  I’m checking out The Sky Tonight and this Sky Map.  I see a field trip in my near future.

In the meantime, I’ll share the brilliant Mary Oliver’s poem, “Stars.”  I’ll try to stand very still and be empty of words.  Her words make a believer out of me.

Wherever you are, I hope today you will believe in some kind of love.  Thanks, as always for showing up.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Steve permalink
    August 25, 2011 8:55 am

    Good stuff! I have to admit the NYT article made me a bit squeamish, but it was really interesting to read it from her perspective.

    Download the Google Sky Map app. And for the record, I think everyone was bluffing when they said they saw the giant bear.

  2. Dawn permalink
    August 25, 2011 9:35 am

    It’s nice to know I’m not the only one challenged when it comes to identifying constellations!

    Thank you so much for linking to Diane Daniel’s article. I read it yesterday and it’s still with me, lingering on the edges of my awareness. Her article was so brave and raw and full of love…real love, not the pretty, Hollywood kind.

    I’m glad you’re still writing. I enjoy reading all of your posts even when I don’t leave a comment.

    • August 25, 2011 7:31 pm

      thank you, dawn — and I will let you know if I learn any stargazing tricks along the way (have you seen the google sky map app for android? my husband just showed it to me and it is pretty incredible
      i haven’t been able to get diane’s article out of my mind, either. while it isn’t my story to tell, i just had to share it. i hope you are doing well, and it is so great to hear from you.

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