Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of September 6, 2004
Dance under starry, starry nights
Cast your eyes to the heavens and let your soul sing
By SUZANNE ELSTON
I loved going to the cottage as a kid. We'd lie on the rooftop of the boathouse all afternoon, frying our young skin to a tender crisp, waiting for the sound of the ski boat revving its engine below. I'd always want to ski last, when the waves on the bay at Pen Lake had calmed, and the surface of the water glimmered like a giant looking glass in the late afternoon sun.
Later, after dinner, we'd slather our burned bodies with Noxema and meet back on the boathouse rooftop to gaze at the gorgeous stars. Without the glare of city lights or the haze of pollution, they shone like clusters of diamonds. We'd sit under the stars, talking about life, the universe, and the cute boys at the cottage next door, until our rising voices alerted my parents to the lateness of the hour.
Dream timeIt was a magical time, carefree and yet bursting with hope. Our lives had only just begun and we were as filled with dreams as the sky was filled with stars. It seems hard to believe that it has been more than 30 years since I last traded secrets with my friends on the roof of Shipton's boathouse.
During the intervening decades I've had adventures beyond my wildest adolescent imaginings, but none took me back to the magic under the stars until last week. There was no boathouse at the cottage that Brian and I rented for our summer vacation, and instead of being 17, we were accompanied by our 17-year-old son, 10-year-old daughter and her friend, and our fur-child, Jessie the retriever.
The lake was smaller and the ski-boat had been replaced by the noisy roar of jet-skis zigzagging across the water. A sun hat and SPF-15 sunscreen had replaced the baby oil and the bikini. And after the sun went down, instead of lying on our backs looking at the stars, we lit campfires to keep warm and roast marshmallows for the kids.
It was only after the fire had burned down to embers and the children were nestled in their beds inside the cottage, that we looked up to the same stars that had lit the sky three decades ago. I was busy straining my neck back to gaze at the heavens when Brian asked, "Have you looked at the lake?"
It took my eyes a few minutes to focus on what I was supposed to be seeing. Slowly, one by one, the stars seemed to dance out of the water, until every star in the sky above was mirrored in the lake below.
And your soul fliesWe walked carefully out to the end of the dock and stood in silent awe. Surrounded by stars, it was almost as if we were standing on the edge of the universe. It was a moment of terrible beauty and great tranquility. For one very selfish moment I prayed that time would stand still.
It was Barbara Winter who wrote, "When you come to the end of everything you know, and are faced with the darkness of the unknown, faith is knowing that one of two things will happen. Either there will be something solid for you to stand on, or you will be taught how to fly."
My feet may have been firmly planted on the dock that night, but my spirit was busy learning how to fly.
It was a magical moment, as I soared and danced with the stars, beyond the great darkness of the unknown. We are, after all, the stuff that stars are made of.
What was so truly remarkable about that night is that somewhere, every single night of the year, the universe offers us a similar glimpse of eternity.
Far from the glare of the city lights, beyond the veil of smog, the starry, starry night beckons. We need only answer its call.
Recommended websites:Invite your children to dance with you among the stars. StarChild is NASA's Learning Centre for Young Astronomers. Visit starchild.gsfc.nasa.gov/docs/StarChild/StarChild.html.
Imagine the Universe is NASA's offering for kids 14 and up. Go to imagine.gsfc.nasa.gov/.
National Geographic offers some amazing desktop wallpaper for the Starchild in everyone. My personal favourite is a 1984 picture of astronaut Bruce McCandless II, drifting untethered some 217 miles (349 km) above the Earth with nothing but a nitrogen-propelled backpack to guide him back to the shuttle waiting below. Visit nationalgeographic.com/magazine/space.
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