You know your other half knows you well when he gives you an unexpected Christmas present that you intially open trying to hide your “What the …” frown, but then a week later you realise you have been thinking of it more than most other things. That’s how it was this Christmas – Olly got me a book on stargazing, specifying the stars we would see through 2017.
One of the pleasures of winter up here are the long, very dark nights. That’s rubbish, in all honesty they can be pretty depressing until the stars are revealed in all their excellence. You do have to be prepared to see them, wrapped up from the biting wind or at least tightly hidden in a window with the black out curtain behind you stopping all the light. If you look straight out of our bedroom window you can’t see another house or road light. You can see the pink glow of Perth 10 miles away, a bit to the left and quite far to the right are two other houses. But that’s it out the front of the house. So I climb onto the deep window sill (praying my heavily pregnant weight will be held by the shelf) and tightly pull the curtain behind me. And wow the stars are great, but then I can’t read the book to identify what the stars are. So I open the curtain and upset the dog whose usual bed is just at the bottom of the window. Juggling the book, the curtain, the large belly and everything else is becoming a bit of a farce. He (the dog) looks at me as if I am mad. And to be honest perhaps I am? Because why should I be fascinated by these pricks of light in the sky? They are so far away, so ineffectual on my daily life (unless I believed in astrology). Yes if I was a great deal brighter (excuse the pun) I might understand how black holes, stars, galaxies, space travel etc impacts the way the universe works but to be honest it’s just one thing I have decided to gloss over.
What I am interested in is the fact that the stars have been there for so long and will be there for at least as long as I will be. So in a way they are my constant. If I learn some of their names and where to see them, it’s knowledge that will still be relevant in 5, 10 even 100 years time. How many other things can you say that about now? We all live in such constant change on a macro and micro level. Here in our house it’s all change with my stomach having a life of its own, my 8 year old adding inches to his legs on a weekly basis and I’m not even going to mention the project outside. A moment of consistency is peaceful and welcomed.
Those small lights also give a positive spin to the long dark nights which so many of us struggle with. Beauty in darkness. And finally seeing those three stars (or clusters) of Orion’s belt ties me back with where I first saw them in warm SA as a little thing (because it sits on the astrological equator it is seen from both hemispheres). A connection running through from my childhood, to now, to when I am old.
So if you are encouraged to look up – there’s a great line at the moment from Venus to Mars to the Moon. Such a straight line where you can say with absolute certainty what each of those planetary figures are. And then you can start looking closer at Orion and realise he is actually dancing – just look at those arms! And then beyond him to the constellation of Taurus – this reminds me of Shaka Zulu’s impondo zankomo or “bullhorn” attack formation. I might even get brave enough to bear the cold and find the dragon called Draco, Lyra and Hercules on the Northern horizon. Maybe.