I’ve been seeing stars lately. Lots of them.
Not in the sense that I’m encountering dizziness or vision problems or that I’ve been hit over the head with anything. But metaphorically speaking, a shift in vision has occurred. I am not the same person I was. I have been seeing stars in the night sky, a whole array of tiny radiances beaming out from the blackened blue heavens, arranged in the shape of stories and myths.
For many years now, I lived in an urban environment where seeing stars was nearly impossible. Not only did it not feel safe to go out after dark most of the time, but it was downright challenging to find an unlit corner of the city where one’s eyes could adjust to take in those fine pinpoints of light in the universe. Illumination clouded my vision, you might say. Imagine that.
I’ve found myself in a new home recently where I can step outside on almost any night and see the stars displayed above me. It’s caught me by surprise a few times. I mindlessly go to take out the garbage or run to my car to grab something, and I am suddenly awe-struck as I look up at the night sky. I hadn’t realized how much of my life over the past several years had been bereft of stars.
If you follow the “musings” page on my website, you’ll see that I took a rather lengthy hiatus from writing these blog posts for several months. Those months were somewhat of a gestation period for a new season of life, filled with transition, with movement, with meditating on and trying to manifest the next half of my life, and together with my husband, shape how that might play out. It’s been nine months leaving a home and searching, endlessly at times, for a new one. Nine months of packing, storing, and schlepping our personal belongings from one corner of the San Francisco Bay Area to another. Nine months of seeing the world from new vantage points, meeting new people, learning new directions, establishing new patterns of daily life. And nine months of unknowing, until we finally knew.
As I write this, we are settling into our new home. It’s been quite a ride. And with all the home repairs and upgrades we have ahead of us, the ride is likely to continue. Yet, these months have brought so much reflection and refining of focus for me. Lots of dreaming. Wondering. And lots of stars. I am tuning my eyes the way one tunes one’s ears to the sounds of music.
I am tuning in, too, to the conversations between and with others, trying to understand how we arrived here, trying to make sense of this new phase of life coming into focus for me while simultaneously tuning in to the lives and feelings and hopes and challenges of those around me. I have several close friends and loved ones going through health challenges, relationship conundrums, and vocational searches. I get absorbed in the struggles of people in and around my community and across the globe. Most days, I find I am at a loss for words at the confounding mystery of it all. Why did that person get cancer? How did such a vibrant relationship between two people fall apart? And the question as old as time: why do bad things happen to good people? A loss for words for one who makes her living at communications is a rather uncomfortable thing. I feel mute at a time when it seems I should be speaking more, writing more, expressing more.
So it was with great delight that I recently discovered the author and 24th Poet Laureate of the U.S., Ada Límon, through the serendipitously timed interview she had as part of Krista Tippet’s OnBeing podcast series. Somehow podcast episodes always seem to come into my purview at the very moment that their words and wisdom were just what I needed to bring me to my senses. Tippet begins her interview with Límon with this beautiful summation of my current state of being:
“…there are times in a life, and in the life of the world, where only a poem — perhaps in the form of the lyrics of a song, or a half sentence we ourselves write down — can touch the mystery of ourselves, and the mystery of others. So my interest, when I get into conversation with a poet, is not to talk about poetry, but to delve into what this way with words and sound and silence teaches us about being fully human — this adventure we’re all on that is by turns treacherous and heartbreaking and revelatory and wondrous.”
And then, further on in the podcast, came the poem, the words, from Ada Límon that brought the stars in my sky into alignment in ways that I could not articulate in my own words:
Out here, there’s a bowing even the trees are doing.
Winter’s icy hand at the back of all of us.
Black bark, slick yellow leaves, a kind of stillness that feels
so mute it’s almost in another year.
I am a hearth of spiders these days: a nest of trying.
We point out the stars that make Orion as we take out
the trash, the rolling containers a song of suburban thunder.
It’s almost romantic as we adjust the waxy blue
recycling bin until you say, Man, we should really learn
some new constellations.
And it’s true. We keep forgetting about Antlia, Centaurus,
Draco, Lacerta, Hydra, Lyra, Lynx.
But mostly we’re forgetting we’re dead stars too, my mouth is full
of dust and I wish to reclaim the rising—
to lean in the spotlight of streetlight with you, toward
what’s larger within us, toward how we were born.
Look, we are not unspectacular things.
We’ve come this far, survived this much. What
would happen if we decided to survive more? To love harder?
What if we stood up with our synapses and flesh and said, No.
No, to the rising tides.
Stood for the many mute mouths of the sea, of the land?
What would happen if we used our bodies to bargain
for the safety of others, for earth,
if we declared a clean night, if we stopped being terrified,
if we launched our demands into the sky, made ourselves so big
people could point to us with the arrows they make in their minds,
rolling their trash bins out, after all of this is over?
Truly I feel that “my mouth is full of dust” these days. I am searching for words that I can bring to the world and its mysteries and woes, words that can console friends, urge actions, lift us all out from our malaise, remind us why we were born and what our greater calling is. Too often I am coming up short.
But this is my hope for the days and weeks and months to come: that my (that our) communications, our words, our writing, speaking, and music-making might be used more in the service of reclaiming our rising. That we may not be at a loss for words or for loving. There is so much possibility within us. There is so much to wonder at. Perhaps our mouths are full of stardust, and it’s time to tune in, to lean in, toward what’s larger within us. Look, we are not unspectacular things.
March 2, 2023