Starry : A Tale of Two Nights

One night, I walked the dry river bed out across the desert and to the water’s edge.

During the day it is a popular draw in the region, full of locals and tourists; now it is completely empty.

The flicker of a bonfire miles away is the only sign of human habitation.

I slip into the warm, lapping lake.

My eye can’t distinguish between the black water, the dark mountains on the far shore, and the inky night sky. With no line between them I am enveloped in limitless night.

I float on my back and slowly my eyes adjust.

Stars begin to emerge from the darkness. First a few at a time – and then thousands upon thousands. The Milky Way stretches above and across me, a midnight rainbow of light (like this, but better).

I lay there for what seems like hours, feeling both infinite and infinitesimal. Connected to some ancient cycle of land and sky.

Humbling and awe inspiring, it is truly one of the most magical moments of my life. Alone in the darkness, with the universe laid before me.

I have thought if it a thousand times since I came home, and probably always will. It is a perfect, perfect memory.


The other day, though, I was on the phone to my brother.

He lives in Korea, but at the time he was in a shoebox hotel room in Tokyo.

I was telling him about the endless stars in the mountains. He would have loved it.

And then he laughed his world weary laugh.

Last week he was reading the kids in his class some myth-based picture book about how the stars came to be. And they didn’t know what he meant.

Seoul is such a big city, and like in so many other urban areas, the smog and light pollution smother the night sky.  Most of the 6 year olds in his charge had never seen a star in their lives.

One kid had. He’d visited his grandparents in the suburbs and saw one once. He told all the other kids about it.  I can just imagine his kindergarten gloating.

And for all the culture shock and social differences we both come across in our lives time and again, it is these tiny details which always make my heart pause.

I cannot imagine a life without sky. Or a childhood without constellations and eclipses.

It makes me a little sad and I find myself wanting to do something drastic, like put his entire class on a private jet to the countryside. As if star-gazing is a god-given right.

But then, the kids in Kyrgyz have never seen a skyscraper. And I had never seen their glorious, infinite Milky Way.

None of us will ever see it all, even if we tried.

It’s funny to think the world is so huge and different, and yet the Earth is so absolutely tiny.

It’s pretty much the definition of mind-bending.

One Response to “Starry : A Tale of Two Nights”
  1. Keep on writing, great job!


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