The Story of Stars

My God, have you ever seen the sky move?

I wax poetic about swirling constellations and not for a moment did I understand.

We were a bunch of people in a little inn in the middle of nowhere. The one road that climbs through the treacherous mountain-ways lay somewhere below us, with the occasional truck trundling by. The night was pitch black with not a township nor concrete mass for miles on either side. We knew rocky peaks surrounded us, but it was more a felt sense of presence than any visuals. A silhouette here or there, a cradling of small, fragile human beings amidst beings that have stood watch for millennia and will stand watch for who knows how much longer.

It was midnight and we grabbed our pillows and those little phones one clutches in one’s hands and trudged up three floors to the open roof. There was an orchestra playing. No really, not one for the ears perhaps, or not one for these ears. But for all the words that flow from pens and mouths and thinking minds- you couldn’t put that music down, you couldn’t imprison it in something so paltry as a description.

We grabbed a huge picnic mat from somewhere. We spread it out, pillows abound. And then we got on our backs and stared. And stared. And stared. For endless hours, we stared, lying there between rocky peaks that no hand has touched, where for all the darkness the ground might be quite the same as the space above.

I had never seen stars til then maybe. Little points of light we know and love in our cities and towns and through a few glances out of the window. Poems have been written and songs sung. Somewhere, we sing to each other, both knowing and not knowing that we know. The sky was on fire, singing from the pits of her stomach out across the heavens to touch our faces, our gawking, hungry, ravenous eyes as we lay there.

Have you ever seen a shooting star?

Have you ever seen not one, not two, but dozens, hour after hour, after hour?

Have you seen them rip through a velvet night with tails of fire?

We gasped out loud every time. Each one our fingers reached out to touch- a forgotten kind of braille we once knew when we remembered we were blind. I didn’t know one could gasp again, and again, and again at the same sight. But of course it wasn’t the same. No two flames ever burn alike.

And the moving fires danced and weaved through others that hung there, close enough to touch and far away to drive one completely insane. The patterns hung there, and with each passing hour the sky shifted- a constellation here was a constellation there, and new ones arose. And somewhere on each horizon, the points of light brought out the rocky silhouettes that carried us.

The magnitude of this orchestra cannot be contained. Maybe soldiers and sailors in centuries past lost themselves on purpose so they could be guided home, so they could find an excuse to chart paths in the heavens. Maybe wild explorers went to sea and death and hidden dragons just for the night skies that called. Maybe everything that was ever lost and found was an ode to the stars and a quest for their blessing.

The sunrise blinked them out one by one. Snow covered peaks greeted the first ray of light in a fiery glow. We saw the Naanga Parbat, the second highest peak in Pakistan, had been in a straight line from us all along- only we didn’t know in the dead of night.

We live so delicately poised between the vastness of our own world and the smallness of our running thought.

Maybe the stars are a song or a love letter or a map of story beyond time and space.

Maybe they are an invitation.

Maybe they are an embrace and an absolution. Right here, right now, just as we are, we can look up and know how we are held, a blue dot in an unknown vastness, with music, light, and beauty.


Image Source: Grainy first light on the Nanga Parbat, best my iphone could do.

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