Saturday, January 16, 2010


The stars have been in my thoughts a lot lately. I can't remember a time since I was a boy that I've felt so strongly about seeing them, or wanting to see them.

These days, I'll look up when I can for a peek; when I get into the car at work from the top deck of the parking garage; or sometimes between the narrow space of the tops of buildings in the city outside our door; I'll look and I hope to see them shining out.

They're brighter the further you get from the city. They seem brighter in the cold air too for some reason. I don't know much about it, but it makes me more cheerful when they're bright.

"Are we going on a star date tonight," my daughter asks sometimes now.

She'd picked up an interest in outer space last year when her class had gone to a planetarium and I'd purchased a pair of good binoculars to see the moon and other nearby objects. Sometimes we'll go out on the deck on the third floor and look to see what we can see. Recently I bought a book to help us find things to look at in the sky. It's fun to see her little face light up with wonder when she can see the mountains on the moon.

But there are many nights when the stars are hidden by the clouds or dimmed even further by the city lights and there's not much to see. The nights have also been terrifically cold recently and that's made gazing a more difficult thing to enjoy.

"No sweetie," I've had to say all to often lately, "not tonight. Can we read a book instead?

I've also been very tired lately from long days at work and lots to do here at home. There's been precious little energy to spend on things that go beyond the basics.

Whatever the cause, it makes me feel a little gloomy when I can't get out to see them.

It seems no mistake to me that one of Shakespeare's most often quoted phrases about a dark sky comes from one of his most dark plays, Macbeth:

"There's husbandry in heaven tonight; their candles are all out," comes to my mind when the night sky is obscured by some natural or man made phenomena.

Shakespeare's words make me think of a great dark house with shuttered windows. They make me feel like I used to feel when a childhood friend was out of town and I was lonely.

I dream more and more about a time when I'm rested enough and the weather is kind enough just to step out when I wake up at this time of night just for a look at them. I dream of camping out in the open like I used to when I was a young man and waking to find them right above my head.

Stars remind me of the brevity of any trouble I may be feeling. I look up at them and know that my grandmothers and their mothers and relations unknown in the deep past also saw the same sky and the same lights. And their troubles are long past and the stars are still there as untroubled and as unknowable as ever.

Good night.

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