Star Signs

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The forecast predicts more rain, and water pools in the grass—a marshland of sorts in Hillsboro, Oregon. On our evening walk, Angel, snug in her winter togs, sniffs the trees roots while I, eager to be inside, look up beyond stripped branches to see clouds hanging low enough to touch.

I miss the stars.

From 1955-1961 I lived in Pendleton, Oregon, not only where hills undulated with wheat and wind storms left dust in every crevice, but where winter sunsets splayed across the horizon and the Milky Way poured out a pathway of stars. As night unfolded, I’d lie on my back and sing of angels lighting God’s little candles. “We call them stars. They are friends in the sky.”

The night of July 4, 1962, at Our Lady of Angels Convent, we young nuns spread blankets on the lawn and watched the starry universeI knew little of light years and galaxies, travels and vacuum, but we all knew that a few months earlier, John Glenn, cocooned into Friendship 7, spiraled out into weightlessness and entered a world of plummeting stars. Searching the night sky, I wondered what it would be like to be so close to starlight.

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On a bleak November, one year later, I sat in a darkened room with my Franciscan community, the bitter rains of mourning snuffing out the light. Our president was dead. Bobby Kennedy, adapting Shakespeare, eulogized his brother John: “When he shall die, take him and cut him out into stars and he shall make the face of heaven so fine that all the world will be in love with night. . . “  Bobby Kennedy’s words plunged into my heart and carved a new meaning of eternal life..

Except for St. Stephen’s Indian Mission (where the summer and winter sky is a wide open book of starlight), my teaching career had kept me inside, with little time set aside for star-gazing. City, mall, and traffic lights often dimmed the cosmos. In the same year our government scorched Iraq with shock and awe, I bought a star kit. On the ceiling of my bedroom I affixed huge stencil sheets, found the open constellation hole, and dabbed each with glowing paint. In darkness, the universe twinkled, I declared it “Good,” and for three years, slept under the stars.

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This Christmas, tree lights reflected on the patio door. Rains soaked the ground and clouds still hung low, but my tree remained and twinkled on the patio, brick, branch, and air—like star signs. From inside, on a picture window, I found a replica of the universe.

From a vision outside his sanatorium window, Vincent Van Gogh painted The Starry Night. The artwork spirals with exaltation and grief, heaven and earth, light and darkness. His title captures creation’s awesome spin; his words fling one more message into space: “I don’t know anything with certainty, but seeing the stars makes me dream.”

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This coming week the forecast looks like clearer skies. When Angel and I walk, I will make sure to study the sky, look beyond suburb lights and behind flying clouds. That way I won’t miss the stars. I might dream again with the child in awe of constellations; with space travelers and heroes; with poets and artists. Yearn, in ways small and great, inside and outside, to catapult into the universe, race along the Winter Triangle, and hang on (for dear, dear life) from the Belt of Orion.

10 thoughts on “Star Signs

  1. Having added the lilting Italian “LaStella” to my birthright “Vonderschmidt,” anything about stars pricks my interest. The times we have been in places that allowed the whole Milky Way to show herself have marked themselves indelibly in our history.
    Thank you for your reflection and New Year’s Blessings, Toni!

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    1. What great memories to have geography place its indelible stamp on us. But the name LaStella–now that is unique in all the world. Happy New Year to you and your loved ones, Linda. May the stars shine bright upon you.

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  2. Toni,

    This was one of your best! Loved it and congrats again on STARTING… getting the Oregonian

    mention. My college roommate who lives in Portland saw it. She’d already bought

    and enjoyed it!

    Hope you are staying warm! It is so cold but clear that we can almost see

    people walking across the Golden Gate Bridge!

    Happy New Year to you and Marge!

    Love,

    Us

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Barbara. I can just imagine not only the view you have, but the gorgeous expanse of skies over your home. Seems as though the colder it is, the brighter the stars shine. Blessings, love to you this New Year.

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  3. Oh how wonderful to see your blog! I miss you and your writings on FB!

    Love your observations of the stars,your descriptions and star meanings to you! Keep looking up and pocket all that you see.

    “To be a star you must
    Shine your own light,
    follow your own path
    and don’t worry about
    the darkness for that
    is when the stars
    shine brightest.”

    From The Things We Say

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    1. Hi, Palma. Love your response and the reference to a star in my pocket–just like the song, “Catch a Falling Star.” You are a whiz! I wrote the poem in my journal and underlined “don’t worry about the darkness.” Wisdom to keep me company this New Year. Peace, love, every good.

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  4. What a wonderful topic and beautifully written. So many aspects to muse upon 🙂
    The sky and space always put things into perspective for me.
    Love your idea of painting stars on the ceiling inside.
    Your tree lights reflecting reminded me of the first Christmas after the death of my husband. Our son was 7. I didn’t put up lights outside our house that year. My husband had always done that. I did put some up inside. My son and I felt less alone when we noticed when we looked out the window the reflection of the lights inside made it appear there was a string of lights from our roof up into the sky. I’ll never forget that!

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  5. You have a shared memory that is invaluable, Shirley. I hope this memory is kept alive in your family history, a treasure to bring out over the years, like a Christmas ornament or string of lights! Blessings on your new year and on your family.

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  6. Thanks, Alan. From one book lover to another, remember that scene in Walls” “The Glass Castle” when the the father takes the kids out to look at the sky? He tells them to claim one star that is all their own–a gift that lasts forever. And the children, having nothing, later laugh at those others who get Christmas toys that break. Happy New Year of unbreakable dreams.

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