“And so we came forth again to see the stars”
My husband and I ran away to the Florida Keys last weekend for some much-needed R&R. We go to be with the water, the pelicans and my other waterbird friends, the sunsets and the quiet. These things feed us. So does something else, something I tend to forget— the stars. And yet there they are. Our first night there, we looked up at a sky just shimmering with them. City lights and hectic lives blind us to the very beauty and benevolence that’s there for us always. But beyond that, stars remind us there’s a whole shining cosmos beyond our lives. Seeing them made me giddy and glad, and thinking about telling you about the stars, their power and the pull, made me giddy and glad all over again. But in Charlottesville that same weekend, there was no light.
Part of me — a teeny, tiny Pollyanna part of me — believes human love is as bright and enduring as the stars themselves. I certainly want it to be that way. Nazis and Klansmen — hate groups I thought we’d never have to think of again — along with the proliferation of new hate groups is something I don’t want to believe but must.
You couldn’t blame the stars for looking down on us and saying, why bother?
Maybe you think you don’t need the stars. Today, August 21, you’ll find out how much you do. A solar eclipse is occurring and if you’re anywhere in the United States, it’s a gift that’s ours to see. All you have to do is look up.*
The eclipse happens when the shadow of the moon blots out the sun for a period of time. But it doesn’t look like a shadow. It looks like the sun has been plucked from the sky by a hateful hand and it feels like the beginning of the apocalypse. Of course there’s science to explain it all but living through it, experiencing the loss — however temporary —of our closest companion star feels, as Pulitzer Prize-winner Annie Dillard writes, like the world has gone wrong. “Abruptly it was dark night, on the land and in the sky. In the night sky was a tiny ring of light. The hole where the sun belongs is very small.”
Recalling the first time she viewed a total eclipse H is for Hawk author Helen McDonald writes, “The sight of a hole above us that was once the sun reduced me to tears; I fell to my knees. It felt like the end of the world.”
Unless the astronomers are very much wrong, the sun will emerge from behind the moon’s shadow soon after the eclipse. And hallelujah for that. We need the sun to live.** Nothing can live without light. And love. Let us be grateful for the sun. Let it inspire us to be the stars we can be. Despite the darkness in Charlottesville — and elsewhere — remember the last line of Dante’s Inferno, “And we came forth again to see the stars.”
What does this have to do with being vegan? Not a lot. But it has everything to do about being soulful. And human.
*How well you view the eclipse depends on where you are on its path. Wherever you are, wear protective lenses to preserve your precious eyes. You know how I worry.
** For a succinct, accurate and very catchy explanation of how the sun, not even a big player among the stars, empowers our lives and preserves our planet, I turn it over to They Might Be Giants.
And because I’m me, I want to give you something wonderful to eat, anyway. As a child, I thought apricots must be what the sun tasted like.