For a very long time, I could not see the stars.
My eyesight dimmed slowly over time, erasing them shade by shade from the heavens that contained them, and then suddenly they were gone. Vanished, I was told, perhaps never to return. I lost the stars first, before what remained of the rest of my sight.
That made me sad, because I've always been a stargazer. Some of my earliest memories are of staring up at the stars from the window of my grandparent's car, fighting to stay awake as they took me back to their house. A warm place, a welcoming place.
A safe place.
I learned, also very early, the words to Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, then When You Wish Upon a Star, and being the believing Idealist (INFJ) child that I was, I did it. For years. Even though the wishes didn't seem to come true, or work out if they seemed to come true, I did it anyway.
They were so pretty, after all, they must somehow work magic.
Then I found myself at the age of thirty-eight, about to go under the surgeon's knife (while awake for the entire thing) and not know if, when I woke, I would be able to see anything, let alone the stars, ever again.
The night before that surgery (the first of six overall) a friend, also a dreamer and wisher-upon-stars, said he would wish upon the stars over Montreal for me.
Another friend from a different sky (with stars that shine the Southern Cross) was not normally a wisher on stars, but said that knowing I believed, he'd keep his eyes out for them that night- when it was day here and I was due to be in surgery. That way, he said, between he and my other friend they'd have most of the world's stars covered.
Despite several setbacks I did get my sight back in that eye- even though the doctors all said later they felt it had been doomed to failure.
Three months later, on a humid summer morning just before the break of dawn, I clearly saw the stars again for the first time in more than two years.
I was standing on a grand balcony at a grand hotel, surrounded by friends who were, at the time, in the numb, early phase of mourning.
I was not at this resort to vacation. They worked nearby, and I was there to support them in any small way I could. We'd been up all night talking and after they went to leave, they noticed the glass doors to this incredible, grand balcony were unlocked. They asked if we could step out on it and being I was a guest of the hotel I saw no reason why not. In the cathedral stillness of that incredible building, they opened wide French doors.
Beneath a sky still black as pitch and alive with sparkles, I spoke one sentence to these men.
These men who had spoken to me of many painful and terrible things that night, and never once lost composure.
"Gentleman," I said, "for the first time in two years I can see the stars, and it's an honor to be sharing this moment with you."
These strong, grown men, veterans, some, who had shown no emotion throughout their ordeal suddenly averted their eyes, and turned away. Their presence there forever in my memory at that significant moment in my life. It gave them, at least, one thing to believe in that night.
I've written so many times of the stars, of the Perseids I love so well and hope to one day see in full clarity away from city light pollution. I am still forever looking to the sky.
It's been so overcast here, Winter's pall, gray obscuring all but the barest hint of moonlight for so long I have almost forgotten what it is the stars really look like.
There's been a pall over me so long, as I've struggled this past year, especially, and through finally getting the correct diagnosis and the circus that is trial and error of medicine that for awhile, I forgot to even try to look for the stars at all.
Through this process and without their brilliant, burning fire something in me started to die. My faith in them, my faith in myself. By faith in the stars I speak not of zodiac predictions (though I respect you if you believe) but in that sense that you get when you look up at the heavens, and think of a hundred songs that talk about wishing on stars and being connected to someone out there and yes I am thinking of animated mice now and you just wonder for a moment if you have any little place in the sky yourself to shine; any small light that makes anything you try to do matter.
Then, a friend far away, across an ocean and thousands of miles of land sees a signal flare- a warning that you're sinking, that you can't find your compass and you need something to navigate by.
So he* tells you this: Pick out a star, and on the next clear night I'll go out and look at it, and when darkness descends in your neck and nape, you'll go out and look at it, and then you'll blog about what it means when two friends, separated by a distance that would intimidate even Columbus, send thoughts to each other via the same burning ball of gas a squillion light years away.
Well, Steve, it's finally crystal here tonight. Clear with whipping winds and cold as hell. But through the frosted window I can see a sliver of moon, and to the left of it I can make out through the passing clouds one very bright star. Don't ask me which one, then I'd have to embarrass myself by admitting I don't know which one it is.
The point is it's there, and I could see it tonight whereas on so many other nights I couldn't. And I might not have taken the time to try, if you had not asked me to. I might not have believed it mattered to try, had you not reminded me.
So I wished upon that star for you, my friend. I wished your kindness be returned to you a 'squillion' times over, and that love, hope, comfort, and memory always be your closest of all companions.
The stars really are a beautiful sight to see, aren't they? I hope you can see them all shining over you, tonight. Thank you for reminding me to look up.
*This post is for the brilliant writer and gifted poet, Stephen Parrish.