Reading by Starlight

Sometimes I walk late at night when it’s clear just so I can see the stars.  I stare up at the sky in wonderment and try to find constellations and make up new ones as I go.  It always gives me an odd sensation, like a feather running up my spine, to consider that some of the stars I glimpse are long gone, yet I’m still seeing their light shining just as brightly as it did when they were full-fledged suns.  I’m seeing stars’ ghosts when I see that light.

Star references have been all over for me the last several weeks.  It started when I was reading Miracle in the Andes by Nando Parrado.  He mentions how close the stars seem at one point in his narrative of escaping the Andes on foot after a horrific plane crash.  The passage struck me with its stark beauty, a commentary on the miracle of how these young men survived the harshest conditions and terrain you can imagine for 72 days, the stars their silent witnesses.  As well-written and gripping as Piers Paul Read’s account of the 1972 plane crash and subsequent struggle for survival  is, he still was an outsider to the events.  Read’s book Alive has the objectivity and balance of a good news story, but you will find no passages about stars in it.  I highly recommend both books, read one right after the other if possible.  Parrado’s writing made me cry.

I was staying at a friend’s house over Christmas when I picked up Charles Tazewell’s The Littlest Angel, which I remembered from my childhood but hadn’t read in years.  It choked me up too.  I had forgotten what a bittersweet little story it is.  It has to be the most touching, enchanting explanation for the Star of Bethlehem I’ve ever read. 

Speaking of enchanting, the last book I’ll mention is Thomas Moore’s The Re-Enchantment of Everyday Life, which is what inspired me to post about stars.  Moore quotes a Passamaquoddy poem on page 315 that made me want to weep too when I read it, the words are so beautiful and mysterious:

“For we are the stars.  For we sing.  For we sing with our light.  For we are birds made of fire.  For we spread our wings over the sky.  Our light is a voice.  We cut a road for the soul for its journey through death.”




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