Bedtime was the same every night on Molokai. Unhurried on this island in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by ocean, I lay under the stars fighting to keep my eyes open in order to drink in one more ounce of their presence. In the profound silence, the disconnection from civilization, I was mesmerized by the vastness of the sky, charmed by the glitter of light; each twinkle a nod from a patient, ever-listening lover.
Such a calm comes over me as I peer into the profound depth of the night sky. You would think that lying under such limitlessness I would feel my own insignificance but, for reasons that I cannot explain, I feel instead such a profound sense of connection– I am flooded with a knowing that I have a place in the world. It is as if the act of looking at the stars makes me one of them.
I am suddenly a part of a constellation.
Entranced, I get lost in the light show and a blanketing feeling that everything will be all right.
I look equally at the dark spaces between the flicker of light. I know it is an illusion, those spaces are not really dark – there are billions of stars in the soft fleshy velvet. They are there; just not discernable to the naked eye, and knowing this fills me with a deep thrill. My sense of astral connection increases with a recognition that I am also a part of a constellation that I cannot see, and it invites the deepest sense of belonging.
The stars give me permission to be me – no more, no less. Critical to the formation of a constellation, I must show up, take space and express who I am. You can’t see the pattern without me; the little dipper has a hole in it if all the stars don’t light up. It absolves me of the exhausting weight of imagining that I need to be “more than”. It gives me permission to be my self, play my role, be seen by some and simply be a part of the dark space to others.
My experience of the starlit sky is so intense that even now, as I call it to mind, I feel the reassurance of its presence. Cloud barriers, the noon sun, light pollution can prevent me from seeing it, but not from experiencing it. This memory has the power to instantly comfort me into a quiet and comfortable knowing.
I visited my grandmother the weekend before last. She lives in a senior’s residence about 4 hours away; I go down when I can.
She can’t see the stars clearly anymore.
She gets lost in her stories, unable to clearly recall the events that formed the roadmap of her life. I steel myself - this might be, as they have warned me, the fated day when she doesn’t recognize her granddaughter’s face.
She is seated facing the window, I approach and take her hands, letting her eyes search mine, hoping she will see me twinkle in between the black holes of her memory.
She reaches to retrieve a name and a label for who I am to her. And then I see it. Before words can be ushered into the light, she experiences me as a
I gently remind her, “It is Tania, and I love you” and she smiles, clarity suddenly breaking through the fog. She nods, but when the context and the details don’t all come into focus, she struggles with a feeling of having done something wrong…
She confesses and pleads, “Tania, I don’t always remember…. will it be ok?”
I can’t imagine how terrifying it is when everything lives in the shadows.
So I tell her about her constellations. Slowly I share the big events of her life, tracing one to the next, just like you do when you point out Orion’s belt. I name the moments lost and with each story she relaxes more, not into the memory, but into the dark space in between.
Comfort doesn’t come from remembering the events, but from a deeper sense that they are there, even if they are not visible to her; the same comfort that I feel under the sky – trusting in the presence of what I cannot see and allowing insignificance to be replaced with belonging.
I saw her momentarily feel her place in the universe again.
This is how I will remember her, a North Star in my constellation.
One day soon I know my skies will cloud over in grief, I will look for her twinkle and will be greeted by the dark. I hope that I will remember the magnitude of what I cannot see, the ever-presence of my constellations and the gift within the depth of the dark inky bits – belonging.