City skies are never as black as they should be; the lights of busy lives below and polluted air hide the twinkling stars. In fact, there are lots of things conspiring to keep the imagination inducing illumination of the stars hidden from our view. Weather conditions (you need a clear night to spot the greatest number of the), location (where you stand can determine how many you can see clearly) and time are only a few obstacles that stand between gazing up at a sky blanketed by tiny white lights and gazing up at a half-lit canvas.

Maybe that’s why every time I read on social media or the news about some random meteor shower coming,   I set an alarm on my phone so I can try to catch a glimpse.  I don’t understand much of it, but I enjoy reading about black holes and seeing the latest pictures from NASA.  There is something magical and poetic about sitting outside, staring up at the sky and watching the twinkling white lights dance.  Especially knowing that, since it takes millions of years for the light of a star to each Earth,  watching them means literally staring back in time.  Somehow, knowing that, at least a time or two, most people on Earth throughout all of history, have stared up at the night sky helps me feel connected. Connected to strangers and not as far from ones who have moved on, out of my life.

Last night, Alight and I went out to look at the moon.  It was full and so, so clear.  We found two of the planets and talked about how pretty it was.  It made me feel very small, like I was in an airplane, looking down on a world full of people who only think they are mighty.  There are many things I appreciate about city life but, truly, I’d rather have a porch swing on a piece of ground far enough away from the lights to be awed by the number of stars each night. Funny how such a small thing like looking up can give me such a big perspective.    Funny how realizing just how small I am doesn’t scare me but instead brings me comfort and relief. 

Tomorrow begins a new, interesting week that’s sure to serve up a menu of crazy followed by more crazy. For some people, the crazy may prompt feelings of sadness, anxiety, maybe even fear.  The city life, full of its timeclocks, stressors and the shedding of community to win the race for progress can easily create a void. It’s ironic how sometimes being in the most of people can actually make you feel more alone than really being alone. I don’t want to contribute to the worldwide pandemic of loneliness. I’d rather be a star, small in the grand scheme of things, not overly meaningful, but twinkling, dancing, quietly shining to remind people’s-everyone I encounter, from my family to my colleagues to strangers on the street-that the things that make us different don’t have to make us hate each other or isolate ourselves from each other.  If we remember that they say remnants of stardust helped form each of us, we remember that we all are emotional beings. No election is worth seriously wounding another person’s sense of worth; in fact, very few things are worth that.  I do my research and I have my opinions.  I voted because I love America. But her people are what made me love her. That sense of unity we had after  9/11, after the Boston Marathon tragedy ,  after Columbine–I haven’t forgotten how, for brief moments in time, displaying compassion and love was more important than being red or blue or right.

Since the start of COVID-19, there’s been a 20% increase in domestic violence calls to help centers and 9-11. The statistics for the increase in child abuse cases and suicides—these are heartbreaking.  Storefronts are being boarded up right now and downtown streets are being emptied out of fear of more riots this week.  Children are hiding from adults who are unable to cope with the unprecedented stress of this year.  The hope and sense of connectedness that can be found by starting into a night sky is in jeopardy of being lost to more violence and every time innocence is robbed the world grows a little bit colder.   What I’m going to walk into this week remembering is that behind every vote, every shout of anger, every cry of victory, there is a story. I care more about your story than I do the name that was on your ballot. Because, really, what  creates the greatest change in people’s lives is how they are loved—or hated. 

Depending on whether you count very dim stars or all of the brown dwarfs you could find hanging out,  there are an estimated one hundred billion stars in the Milky Way. Only about 5,000 of these can be seen with the naked eye from Earth.  Once upon a time, one of these stars fell from the sky.  Watching from below was a little girl whose greatest dream was to hold a star, see one up close and personal. As the shooting star shoot out of the sky, she scrambled up from the ground, Johnson grass tickling the soles of her feet.  She raced through the fields, over fallen branches, scaring three skunks and raccoons out of the way as she ran with all her might. Mosquitos nipped at her legs and arms, blonde hair flew behind her shoulders. Up ahead!  A bright light, coming from deep within the glade.  The sound of cicadas floated through her ear, the grass sashshaying across her legs as she slowed to a walk and tried to make her way across the uneven ground to the light source. 

Breaking through the glade into a quiet meadow, she saw it. The brightest light she’d ever seen. It wasn’t actually white, the star, it was a golden flame. But there were the five points; she knew it was her star, a star that, in its death, captured her silent but fervently made wish. Her ocean blue eyes swelled and she froze,  uncertain what to do, now that she was within reach of her dream.  Her skin tingled and her nostrils flared, gulping in oxygen lost in the run here. Finally, she took timid steps closer until she was within touching distance of the fallen star.  She could hear the whooshing sound, and her whole body filled with emotion, with wonder.

Lowering herself to the ground, curling her legs beneath her,  afraid to blink in case the star disappeared, she settled in to wait.  The dream was too hot to touch right now ; it needed to cool.

The wait was worth it.

And so, as we approach a week of crazy, I’m going to make an effort to appreciate the small things. The house is clean , the Christmas tree is up, fifteen presents are already wrapped , the trees are brightly colored and the park is close by. I’m going to keep a list of the acts of kindness that happen each day, the good that I see. And each night I’m going to take at least a full minute to step outside, find a planet and count the stars.