Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Bright Star

One of the earliest memories I have of my paternal grandfather 
is from a summer night 
when he and my grandmother sat in lawn chairs in their backyard,
looking up at the night sky.
 I was running myself silly chasing my cousins around the house, 
stopping occasionally to wiggle my way into Grandpa's chair 
before jumping out to continue the chase.
One time after pushing my way on and off of his chair,
he said, "Stay here with me and look at the stars."
I looked  up; the sky was dark, the stars sparkling. 
And then I was off again.

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Looking at the stars has always been a family pastime.
Some summer nights, we would sit on blankets in the front yard and stargaze.
My dad would point out the only two constellations he knew: 
the Big Dipper and the Little Dipper.
Then he would direct our attention to the Milky Way Galaxy's billions of stars
 sweeping across the sky.
We didn't really care that we didn't know the names of the stars.
It was enough to sit together in the dark and see them twinkling.
The other morning we were awake before dawn, 
and my husband told me there was another bright star in the sky.
I went outside and looked. The bright star in the eastern sky sparkled brilliantly.
I'm not sure if it was Venus or Sirius, the Dog Star.
As in my childhood, the sparkle was the more important part,
and I was excited to see that the dark sky was full of bright stars.
I had been thinking of stars since then, how much I like them,
how infrequently they are visible amidst the wash of city lights.
Then yesterday, a friend of mine showed me a poem he had copied:
Bright Star by Keats. 
That seemed a happy coincidence, and the poem is beautiful,
so I want to include part of it here:

Bright star, would I were steadfast as thou art--
Not in lone splendour hung aloft the night
And watching, with eternal lids apart,
Like nature's patient, sleepless Eremite,
The moving waters at their priestlike task,
Of pure ablution round earth's human shores
Or gazing on the new soft-fallen mask
Of snow upon the mountains and the moors ...

The poem finishes with a declaration of love.
Love and stars remain intertwined through the centuries.
And it's nice to know that when we're looking up at the stars here,
someone we love may be looking up at them from afar.
As the lyrics of the song "Somewhere out There" reassure us,
we might be wishing on the same bright star.

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