Once the winter stars wrapped in their cloudy shroud shed frozen tears, unwilling to come out of hiding. We searched for them in vain, knowing our failure, retreating to the warmth of home, only to repeat the failed effort on so many other nights.
Now, here, the winter stars are usually fearless, some drowned by the moon, but she waxes and wanes and they reappear, the brightest never fearing the chilled sky. We stare at them in wonder having forgotten for so many years just how beautiful they can be in their glory.
Even long after he had left his childhood behind, or such of it as he had actually had, he could still stare up into the night sky, at ceiling of stars with more than a little awe.
And even though he had left childhood behind, no one had yet answered the one question his parents ducked time and time again, one so simple a child knew its answer, but asked anyway, for validation or irritation.
If God created the heavens why did He or She arrange the stars so that people could see in their order other people, lesser gods and all manner of animals?
The wisest of men, when asked at what time it is best to pursue the Way, will answer when a thousand stars have made their presence known. The wisest student will say when cleaning myself by bathing in the mud. This will become clear when the frog consumes the dragon.
A reflection on Case 35 of Dogen’s Shobogenzo Koans (True Dharma Eye)
We sat on our lanai last night in our twin rockers, the cat curled close by but carefully removed from the rockers and stared into the sky hoping meteors would grace us with their fleeting presence.
The moon did appear, shrouded in thin clouds, spectral ghost waxing slowly in hiding, but the stars had fled this night, fearing the rain that the cloud mantle promised.
We never did see a meteor but we know they will return next year and the cat says it is hardly worth interrupting a good nap for a momentary flash of light, and we just touched hands and retreated to bed.
Each morning we stood as the Principal intoned the Pledge of Allegiance over the tinny PA system. One morning as we rose, hands over hearts, we noticed someone had put up the Canadian flag in the holder over the door. The Principal threatened to call all of our parents unless the guilty party came forward, and we struggled vainly to swallow our giggles. No one came forward and they found the Stars and Stripes stuck in a large mixing bowl in the kitchen. The Principal scheduled an assembly to remind us of our need to honor the flag and the country, because it stood for all that was good, for all that we had and that everyone else wanted, but we were under our desks in the painful tuck position we would assume if they ever dropped the bomb. They didn’t tell us that if we were close enough to ground zero the position would let us leave a neater shadow on the floor. Some days we sang My Country ‘Tis of Thee all except for Larry who preferred God Save the Queen until the Principal told him it was sacrilege, since we created it and the Brits stole it. Years later, outside the Federal Building the Principal, now retired and girding for battle with Social Security, saw me, protest sign in hand, flag sewn across the seat of my jeans. He stared, then looked away ashamed at still another failure, not like his two sons who lay in eternal repose in the Federal cemetery on the Island of Oahu.
First published in The Right to Depart, Plain View Press, (2008)
He liked nothing better then to sit outside his small cottage and stare into the pond once the blaze on the water set by the sun was consumed as fire must always be by water. As night deepened, he stared into the sky, seeing the moon slowly rise, chasing along the sun’s now deserted path. He knew the myriad of stars shared his interest, staring but he abandoned the sky as the sun had yet again, and watched as the voracious pond slowly consumed the ever fewer stars, and saw the pond’s moon take up its liquid dance to the tune of the night breeze
It was a Thursday in August when he first noticed it. It was an unusually cool day, not the sort you’d expect in the middle of summer, but he knew the weather was ever more unpredictable. He was certain it hadn’t been there the day before, but he was surprised it was still there the day after, albeit ever so slightly larger. When he asked the elders about it, they merely laughed. “It is what you get for suddenly giving him a bedtime after dark,” his father said, “wait until he discovers the stars.”