As much as I love looking at the stars, I'm surprised I haven't learned more about them. I have said for years that I'm going to learn more constellations. But so far, I haven't followed through. There is one that is deep in my mind, though. When I was a kid, my mom and dad would point out the Big Dipper to me, showing me the handle and the bowl of it. I was always amazed that it followed us around, showing up where ever we were.
Last night, Lucy and I were taking a stroll around the driveway (it's long at our Spicewood house) and I could see the Big Dipper, low over the big empty pasture next to our house. I thought about where that Dipper likes to show up when we are at the cabin. You have to look just above the little pine tree that grows near the deck on the north side. But that same tilt, like someone was ladling out water from a bucket, that same jaunty handle and bowl. I remember the stories of how slaves looking for freedom were encouraged to "follow the drinking gourd" and go north. It always made sense to me that the constellation that would point the way was a symbol for life giving water, a drink for the thirsty. And we are all thirsty.
With all the ups and downs of life, the joys and the tragedies, it is nice to have some constants. Some signposts that not everything is shifting sand. Every morning the sun comes up. And when the night sky is clear, if you live in the northern hemisphere, you will see the Big Dipper. It is there whether you are happy or grieving. It is there whether you are sick or well.
Compared to the stars, the history of us humans is incredibly short. If I am looking for constancy, I can't look to the ancient buildings in Egypt. They are crumbling, and someday will be gone. I can't look to the ancient writings, even the holy ones; if not renewed, they will be gone someday. But the writings of the creator will be here to the end. The stars, the sun and moon. How fitting, for me, that looking up is the solace I need. Looking away from myself into the vastness of the cosmos doesn't make me feel insignificant. It makes me feel incredibly blessed that I was put here to experience this wild journey that is life. I am the opposite of alone when I look up and see that Big Dipper. I am part of the history of mankind. One more human who looks with awe at the night sky. A tiny part, for sure. A very, very temporary part. But the Dipper is pointing toward freedom. And we are all looking for freedom.