From a sound sleep I hear the voice of C: “Come to the back porch and see Leo and Venus!”
I pry open one eye and look at the clock: 4:10 AM. I mumble, “Who are Leo and Venus, and what are they doing at the back door at this hour?”
“Don’t be silly,” she chides me. “Come look.”
I stumble to the back door and stand on the porch in my p-j’s, barefoot. It is early October and rather chilly. C is holding her phone up over her head as if taking a selfie, but she points to the screen.
“See? I have a star map app! It shows us what we see in the night sky. Here is Leo, and here is Venus.”
I squint at the screen where a faint illustration of a lion is superimposed on a bright map of the night sky, with names identifying the stars at Leo’s joints and jaw. I look up at the night sky overhead. Sure enough, the map is an accurate replica of the real thing – there’s Leo, there’s Venus – but the real thing is spectacular.
I cannot remember the last time I looked at the sky at Windy Hill at four in the morning and, now in early fall with a nip in the air, the clear sky is a deep indigo blue and the stars are ice white. Even the dark of the indigo seems to glow, and planets such as Venus are huge.
C turns to the south and her map app spins on the screen with her. “Here is Orion’s belt, and here is Orion himself,” she points out. “He’s upside down now, but you can see him…”
Me: “Leo, Venus, Orion…will they be staying for breakfast?”
C: “Shuttup. Isn’t it magnificent?” Even in the dark, I can see the shine of excitement in her eyes.
Me: “Yes. It really is quite wonderous.”
Daisy pokes her nose out the door, manages a muffled “…huff!…” and ambles back inside. She wants nothing to do with stargazing about now. Too chilly, too early.
C plays a bit more with her phone until the chill finally drives us back inside. It is now dawn and Daisy is insisting on breakfast, so I drop a cup of chow into her bowl and start a pot of coffee for C&Me.
Mornings are magical times at Windy Hill, this morning no less. As the dawn rises outside, so does the mist in the hollows among the rust-colored trees. Soon, thin spires of white smoke will curl up here and there across the valley as people start their fires to warm their homes. It won’t be long before the first frost will greet us one morning, when everything will be dusted white and the last of the fruits and vegetables will be harvested from orchards and gardens.
As C and I sit at the kitchen table sipping coffee, the stars that so inspired us are now gone. They are still there, of course, but the sun, the great star, has overwhelmed them for now. The stars will return later. They always do.
The universe is so cyclical, both the cosmos and our individual lives. Things come and go, then come again. Good times, loved people, great joys come and go, then come again in their own fashion. Some people call this cycle the Tao, the “ten thousand things” that eternally flows. It appears to me that it is the way God made things, as we wait in hopeful expectation to see who or what will resurrect with each cosmic rotation. We must be patient; we have no app to map the Tao. What a fascinating and sacred thing this life is! I pray we never take it for granted, but maintain our sense of wonder.