When was the last time you looked at the stars? Maybe it was last night, maybe much longer ago since you were in a place far from city lights. Picture that night, gazing up. What were you thinking? What did you notice or question as you looked into that velvety blackness, those blazing pinpricks?
There is a place in the Hill Country, on the Guadalupe River, called Mo-Ranch. Down by the river, as the violet hour drifts into darkness, the fireflies come out all along the banks, reflecting in the river. Fireflies like I haven’t seen since childhood, winking in and out among the trees and hedges.
As the sky darkens, the path by the river disappears. The night sky at Mo-Ranch is star-filled from horizon to horizon, an immense sparkling dome. Walking toward that horizon is like walking into the depths of the universe.
One such starry night, I lay outstretched on top of a limestone wall, breathing it in.
As I lay there peacefully, it suddenly seemed to me that several stars were moving in a pattern with each other. I thought, “the stars are dancing!” I felt a mysterious, transcendent fullness of spirit that lifted me up and overwhelmed me simultaneously. I got up and began to move in step with the stars.
An acquaintance passed by on her way into the nearby lodge. “Whatcha doin’, Carol?” Still caught in the moment, I told her I had seen the stars dancing. She looked at me as if I were crazy, snorted and said, “well, well…whatever….” and went on her way.
This clash with someone else' reality was like a cupful of cold water in my face. Taken aback, I was utterly dumbfounded that she didn’t look up, just to see what might be happening in that dark night.
It isn’t easy sometimes, to tell another what we see. It is risky, sometimes even dangerous. But in this time and place, the only risk was to my sense of wonder and my self-esteem. A small risk, when I considered that someday, this woman might look up. She might look up and remember and, if nothing else, ask herself, “what would it be like to see the stars dancing?” And by asking herself that question, she will begin to change.
Stars on their axes, dancing in chorus,
And the sun, their sister, light of the heavens,
Let these adore you, O ever-almighty,
And sing their blessings throughout all the ages
These words were written 1,000 years ago by an abbess in Germany, Hildegard von Bingen. Hildegard was a mystic, writer, composer, artist and powerful woman, who broke barriers and changed the world. But my favorite image of her is that which connects us most through time and space. Hildegard, looking at essentially the same star lights as I have seen, imagined that she could see the stars dancing.
photo copyrighted by Manfred Konrad