So many objects in the night sky are shining and flickering that it’s hard for me to tell which ones are real. I mean real as in masses of gas and rock and energy sending their light from the deep past across space to my eyes. The satellites and airplanes are real too, but somehow they mean less to me than the stars.
A glow blankets the southern horizon from the direction of town—more human lights confusing my view of the stars. Maybe these unnatural lights disappoint me because the work of our brains seems better at causing damage than at fixing things. Even our complex, satellite-building minds can barely comprehend the scope of the trouble we’re bringing upon ourselves.
As always, I’ve been looking to the sky, a practice that lifts my chin and opens my chest. It is not, otherwise, a useful practice, so I am trying to level my chin and keep my hands busy. There are a hundred small tasks in every day. Pouring the milk, picking up a dropped toothbrush, turning the key, driving to the school. I deliver one-armed hugs over backpacks and release my kids with off-you-go waves when I want to stay on my knees pressing them in my arms.
I have been building weird things. My seven-year-old and I screwed together several pieces of wood from the burn pile and added carpet scraps to make a tall playground for our kitten. Crooked fence circles of various sizes encircle our tiny blueberry bushes, which I am determined to protect. In the barn, our chicken coop has new, gigantic roosts with long black locust branches staggered unevenly almost to the ceiling.
I have been building in these uncannily beautiful late fall days. At night, the moon has been strong—called a supermoon when it was full, but even more haunting to me in this past week. When waning, and this moon’s top appears scooped-out, as if the moon is hollow, but still powerful. In this moon’s glare, hunters are tempted to shoot early this morning as they watch deer wander nearby on the first morning of the hunting season, when the laws prohibit shooting before dawn.
And then it is dawn. As always, things seem a bit more real to me in the morning. It might have to do with what I can and cannot see. Out my kitchen window, I see chickens enjoying our garden soil and the sunlight touching treetops across the wetland.
From my window, I cannot see the swastikas freshly painting in public places or the faces of men who have amplified hatred as their life work being selected to advise our government. I cannot see tear gas pluming into the faces of Native people protecting our water or the rapid warming of our planet. But I know they are out there.
I also cannot see the thousands of people in the streets, people no longer standing by, people rushing to defend victims of hate crimes increasing across the country. I cannot see the networks of caring, thoughtful people building empathy and concern for each other and our planet. From here, I cannot see the small flowering cyclamen plant that I left at our local Planned Parenthood clinic last week or my phone calls to our representatives in Congress. But I know they are all out there, too.
And this evening out my window, there are three ducks, never apart, quacking in their busy way across the yard to their favorite puddle. Nothing will descend upon them unnoticed since they are always watching out for each other. There is one vocal, rangy barn cat who spent her whole previous life kept indoors, but now owns the place. She is nobody’s fool; she can take on any rat that causes us trouble.
And then it is dawn again, and all of the stars have fallen, are falling, and blanketing the ground in our first snow. Each strand of our fence netting carries the weight of the snow. Every branch bows to this unexpected beauty. The distant things seem near, and everything seems both imagined and real.