Tuesday, December 1, 2009

advent 1.3

Walking home tonight, I thought about darkness. Quarter to five, and it was dark, thick-dark, though glimpses of western sky showed a blue tinge. Lights shone bright and yellow, especially the ones inside shops and on tall poles above the street. People's holiday decorations glimmered; I caught glimpses of a few Christmas trees behind curtained windows.

The wind was brisk, taking what leaves remained on the trees, and I looked up to see the stars. There were no stars. Or rather, I could not see the stars. I could see an airplane, and then another, but no stars. All I could see was thick, dark sky.

On Friday morning I saw stars. As we left the house before six in the morning, Mom directed my attention up, and there they were: white, shining, and so close I imagined them as transparent plastic pegs stuck through the thick black paper of a Lite Brite with the burning joy of heaven behind. The air was sharp that morning. The stars were real to me then, in all the mystery of their beauty and distance and the unfathomable fact that they are massive burning entities, and that I am seeing them in their pasts, that in my true present they may no longer exist.

I know why I cannot see the stars in the darkness of the city: driving back on Sunday night, I saw the city's glow from miles and miles away. I know our collective presence on this patch of earth overshadows--or rather, overlights--the far-away stars. I know that our own lights, of street-lamps and cars and homes and businesses, all combine into a hazy orangey-yellow brightness. In day-to-day life, I appreciate these lights: they keep me safe on streets, they illuminate my late-night reading, they even dazzle me sometimes with their welcome. But their collective effect, in the city, is the darkness I see when I stand at a corner and look up at the sky. They do not let me see the stars.

And sometimes, I really want to see the stars.

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