Breaking news: I love space. Also, God loves us enough to make stars for us, so that’s awesome.
I do not know why I love the stars so much.
My first memory of the night sky is standing on the driveway, the rough cement beneath our feet and the night like a blanket and my father pointing up to the heavens, tracing the stars into the constellation.
“Cygnus,” he would say with absolute confidence and a little bit of awe. “Orion.”
Why, I always asked. They don’t look like anything but pricks of light. Who was the first person to gaze up and see people?
My parents explained once upon a time, there were no lights. Every night, the sky seemed like it was on fire with the stars. There were more of them to see and trace.
Maybe that was what lit the passion inside me.
I have looked through a telescope two times in my life. Once, the neighbors down the street— a single mother and her teenage son— invited us to glimpse the heavens through theirs. I do not remember what we looked at. Perhaps it is only a dream. I only remember the coldness of the night and the darkness of the sky.
The second time, we went out with our friends the MacMillians to the golf course by their house. It was a bad place to look at stars; there was so much light pollution. But we had just finished a unit in school on astronomy and space and they had a telescope they had acquired from somewhere. We looked at the Moon, I believe, and tried to find Jupiter or Mars.
I remember lying on the golf course and staring up into the blackness with coats bundled close. We couldn’t actually see anything, but we imagined we could.
When I was older, we went to a planetarium. The animated heavens wheeled over us. They drew lines between the stars in the constellations. I did not like the fake stars. I wanted the real stars.
When I was nine and at summer camp for the second time, I was sick in the middle of the night. Most of what I remember is the walk with my counselor down to the infirmary, her hand clutched in mine. I looked up through the trees and it took my breath away.
But what stars!
So many more than the skies at home. I could only see pieces of them through the treetops, but I longed for more.
Maybe it was just the mystery. Maybe the reason I love the sky so much is the fact that I have never seen it. I have only seen pieces of the heavens. I keep coming back for more, straining my eyes into the navy, looking for the milky way.
In New York City in 1965 the power went out for a night and all the people went up to the top of the buildings and looked up at the stars— spread out over the cities like they are every single night but visible for the first time in a century.
What a sight.
It seems to me that every time I have been out in the night I have only sought after the stars. I do not know why.
They are beautiful but they are distant. They might not even exist anymore. Their light takes eons to reach us; the actual star could be gone by now but the light is still traveling across space, thundering along at 300,000,000 meters per second but space is so massive it hardly makes a dent.
When I was younger, I wanted to be an astronaut. I have no idea why.
Space is beautiful but it is beautiful in the same way wildfires are beautiful. It is bone-chillingly terrifying as well; as unforgiving as the ocean.
Perhaps that is why astronauts and cosmonauts share their root in ‘sailor’.
Perhaps the younger version of me wanted to sail— to sail to all the fantastical planets no one has ever set foot on; to glide up to the distant stars and wave hello.
But space takes from you.
Space is unforgiving emptiness— silence and loneliness and coldness.
It is beautiful and breathtaking to look at space— those pictures from the Hubble telescope where every prick of light in the image is not a star but a galaxy, with a hundred million stars its own— they bring tears to my eyes.
But space is also wrong in some fundamental way, like watching an orchestra play without sound; the Wizard Of Oz with Kansas in color.
It is beautiful but it is terrifying once you get out in it, just like the ocean.
Maybe I am in love with space because of the book I had as a child. It was all about space exploration. I fell in love with the space race— with the scientists and their rockets. I could almost feel their emotions— disgust as their ideas were ignored, triumph as their vision was realized.
And under the stars, it seems as if the world is clearer.
The sky is high, higher than the ceilings in the great cathedrals of old. The grass is soft under your bare feet. Above, the stars glimmer down— millions and millions and millions of them.
Why are there stars?
Why did God decide to make stars? We wouldn’t know the difference.
We would never know the difference and yet I like the think that God thought it would bring us joy to look up upon the beauty of the sky ablaze as night.
I like to the think that God thought of me and my friends at our school retreat, lying on the cold grass staring into the heavens in unspeakable joy and thought, “I’ll make stars for them!”
I like to think that he saw me and my friends from camp sitting around a dying fire and canning our necks up to the heavens, filled with awe and thought, “I’ll make stars for them!”
I like to think that in all his planning for the world, he knew that the stars would fill us with wonder and amazement and a tremendous desire to see and to know, and so he, with hands so old the stars themselves seem like the lights of fireflies, spun them into the great blackness.
He hung each one in the heavens and thought about how it would bring us joy.
And so I am in love with the sky at night, with the stars, with the heavens.
I have never seen it in all its glory, but I know I will someday.
I know I will be driving through the empty lands of Montana some clear, clear night and I will pull the car over the side of the highway and get out and look up at the sky.
And I will not have words.
The sky will be on fire.
I will see the Milky Way, spread out like diamonds, each star so far away and yet looking down on me with unwavering light, older than the rocks I stand on.
And from above, God will smile. “I made them for you,” he whispers. “So you could have this joy.”
Hello, everyone! I would like to give many thanks to Hollis Thundercroft from Rag Tag Essays for writing this guest post!
Hollis is a high school senior who writes essays in her free time. She enjoys running, quilting, and sleeping, as well as playing with her two new cats. Her favorite smell is after the rain, her favorite planet is Neptune, and her favorite rocket is the Saturn V, which, she says, you probably shouldn’t bring up in conversation because she will never stop talking about it.
I absolutely LOVE Hollis’s blog and all of her writing. I find her essays to be very powerful, true, and passionate. Please go check out her blog here and leave a comment!