~ awake in this moment, at home in the world ~

Starry Night

February 15, 2012
I awoke in the deep of night and remembered that this was the day of the Leonid meteor shower. I stumbled onto the terrace in the Caribbean dark, inhaled the moist night air and gazed upward. The stars twinkled all about, but the sky seemed remarkably quiet.

I found the North Star. I found the Big Dipper. I found Orion, the first constellation my father taught me and one that will forever remind me of him. (We've even agreed to meet up there someday when our lives on earth have passed.)

And then just as I was turning to go inside, my first gift of the midnight gods appeared, streaking across the sky above - huge and magnificent, with a long sweep of a tail that echoed through the sky for several long seconds. I sat down in a chair, nestled my head back, and waited. After a few moments I spotted another, smaller blaze of light. And then another. And another. Some so dim I almost doubted their presence, and others so glorious I thought they may just land in my lap.

I decided to count. A few years ago I spotted 19 and thought that must be some kind of shooting-star record, some sure sign from the gods that our lives on earth are blessed. I wondered whether this night would be the same.

After ten wondrous meteors, though, the night seemed to quiet and my eyes began to droop. I returned to bed, where I dreamed of chakras and shooting stars. Startled awake by these visions, I stumbled again out onto the terrace. The night sky had heated up considerably by now, and the gentle breeze had cooled, so I wrapped a damp beach towel around me and turned my gaze upward.

I watched stars shooting from east to west, from west to east, high up in the ceiling of the sky and then far off on the eastern horizon. Eleven, twelve, thirteen, fourteen. Then a pause. Fifteen, sixteen, seventeen, eighteen, then another pause for the firework magicians to reload their barrels. Then the wild night dance began again, with star after star after star streaking across the sky.

Remember that old song, "Catch a falling star and put it in your pocket?" My pockets were full and I turned up my skirt to catch more and still they were pouring all about me, dropping from heaven to earth, second after second after second. It's as if a great god of the night sky has traced his long finger along an arc of the heavens, leaving sparks of shooting stars trailing in his finger's wake.

I tried to broaden my vision as far as I could, from center to periphery, remaining alert but soft in the eyes. You can't try to find a shooting star, I reminded myself, you have to wait for the shooting star to find you. You put yourself in the place where shooting stars are most likely to happen, you offer your intention and your attention, and then you soften, surrender, and let everything be.

Just like life, I suppose.

Isn't it amazing how the eyes know how to find these dazzling streaks? You rest back and watch and wait. For a while nothing seems to happen, even though you know that miles and miles away and eons ago, some chunk of rock is has hurtled into our orbit and died a spectacular death.

And then just when you are about to give up, when you let go of every expectation of ever seeing another one again, whoosh, bang, the stars start flying again. And your eyes jump to the light before the brain recognizes what has passed. There's a life lesson in there, I thought, somewhere between falling star thirty-five and thirty-eight.

Is it possible even, that each of us has a "shooting star reflex" deep inside, I wondered, an instinct that knows just how and when to incline our minds to beauty? Is it possible that beauty offers us secrets to living well that in our haste and dim vision we sometimes miss? As my count neared 80 and my heart grew full with shooting stars itself, I knew the answer to that question was yes.

I wondered what the ancients must have thought when the night sky came alive like this, surprising them one night as they traipsed across a high mountain ridge or nestled back against a stone to pass the night in sleep. They must have thought these winding, wandering, dashing stars were magic, miraculous, messengers, omens.

They must have thought they were blessed, I thought, just seconds before I dozed off under the blanket of the twinkling night sky, my last count one-hundred-and-one.