"The sweetest thing in all my life has been the longing —
to reach the Mountain, to find the place where all the beauty came from —
my country, the place where I ought to have been born. Do you think it all meant nothing,
all the longing? The longing for home? For indeed it now feels not like going, but like going back."

~C.S. Lewis


Sunday, August 26, 2012

Saying goodbye to the stars

The quilt binds around my bare shoulders as I twist to face the window and see the stars. Midnight, and in five hours and twenty minutes my watch will beep, and I will get up and put on my backpack and leave Austria for home.

But that doesn’t matter when you’ve seen the stars.

The door to the balcony swings wordlessly—respecting those who dream while asleep, not while awake. No makeup, bare feet, hair loose, I greet the cow bells on the hills, and the mountains look up, brushing my gaze toward the crescent moon. In Paris, I watched it rise alongside the Eiffel Tower, full—now it steps back, making room for the stars.

Ten million stars, each a window God slit in the curtain of this world to allow the outside light of heaven through; now, He whispers, you can see home. If I spent ten minutes looking at God’s stars, heaven's stars, each night, I would love life more. In the city, we drown and build our own stars, flickering halogen that makes moths commit suicide, and humans too. A breeze blows off the mountain, and my face is cold to the touch.

Above me, an ivory rainbow. I haven’t seen the Milky Way for three years, since the farm, when my sister didn’t live on an island and there were four at the dinner table each night. On those evenings, Dad would bring us to the end of our driveway, a quarter-mile walk between fields of crickets, and teach us about Cassiopeia. I don’t see her now and don’t remember where to look.

Yet perhaps I’ve never seen the Milky Way, for even now when I look at her, she fades. But, then, of course she does; beauty doesn’t make sense and you can’t explain why it matters and it’s only on faith you see it at all. Beauty is the greatest builder of faith I know.

Above me, a shooting star, God’s prayer. And I wished on it, that I would always return to nights that are cold and skies full of stars, if not in this world, then in the next.