Sometimes I like to pretend the stars are blue.
Oh, I’ve seen blue stars, believe me. Drive down to South Georgia and say hello to my cousins, and make sure you look up when it gets dark. The stars are a sort of round blue there, like they might drip and fall right out of the sky in a symphony of unseen rain.
I live closer to the big cities. The stars here are small, sharp silver, glittering with flecks of color as the reflected light and dark fight, pressing against them. I have loved them too deeply to be fearful of the night, as Vincent Van Gogh would say, though I do not entirely call them my stars.
But oh, when the sky matches the landscape, so that your mind wants to scream because you can’t drink in every second, every glimpse. Your mind tries to take postcards, but it can’t grab them all. You can’t insert yourself into the frame again, because the beauty goes beyond it. As N.D. Wilson put it…
The world never slows down so that we can better grasp the story, so that we can form study groups and drill each other on the recent past until we have total retention. We have exactly one second to carve a memory of that second, to sort and file and prioritize in some attempt at preservation. But then the next second has arrived, the next breeze to distract us, the next plane slicing through the sky, the next funny skip from the next funny toddler, the next squirrel fracas, and the next falling leaf. [N. D. Wilson, Death by Living]
When I was small, I wanted to catch the stars and wear them. They were too bright to look at, and I was sure they laughed in funny voices I couldn’t hear. They fascinated me, because they were beyond reach of a butterfly net, and so I chalked them out in crayons. Yellow crayons always made me sad, because they were scuffed from the other colors, and never drew quite right in my small fingers. Eventually I moved to other drawing tools, leaving crayon boxes stuffed with too many or too few.
I never tried to draw stars as blue, because I didn’t have any real ones with which to make a crown. And I learned to laugh at what I couldn’t reach.
I learned to laugh at my smallness, because that meant that I was a part of a story. I learned to laugh at the colors that spun around me. I learned to laugh as I kept up with the clock. I laughed at how fast the earth spun, and the way that Narnia can be found in honeysuckle crowns and tree forts, and how a retention wall was a fortress in the middle of a storm.
I could see clearly then. I struggle not to unlearn that, to learn by hanging on.
Do you know like we were saying, about the earth revolving? It’s like when you’re a kid, the first time they tell you that the world is turning and you just can’t quite believe it ’cause everything looks like it’s standing still. I can feel it. The turn of the earth. The ground beneath our feet is spinning at a thousand miles an hour. The entire planet is hurtling around the sun at sixty seven thousand miles an hour. And I can feel it. We’re falling through space, you and me, clinging to the skin of this tiny little world. [Doctor Who, Rose.]
I’ve seen things, glimpses. Sometimes I see them in other stories, and sometimes around me. Above our heads is a tapestry of woven glass, beneath a storm. I live for the days that I see it, even as the salt water burns my eyes and the swirling vivid knocks me down.
I’ve seen the threads, people’s life-blood, their songs, just for a second. Some days, I can look inside of you.
I can see the colors of your threads, the way that they fill up with light. They are there. I can rarely see all of a picture, but I can see some of yours, some days. I’m not Berkeley, so rest assured that they exist even when my vision fails me.
Some threads I see make me cry, because I can see all the joy and the sorrow woven into your life. I don’t pretend to see all of it or that I can see clearly often, but I do see them. I can see them in the way that your word choices change with the topic. I can see them in the conversations about places too far away, about the color of the sky. I can see them in the way you make people smile. I can see them when you make a small, hard choice. I can see them when you cry with someone. I can see them when you tell stories of your day. I can see them, and thus I can see how much I can’t see.
You are amazingly told.
The threads are like living echoes, photographs that breathe. Each thread is a snapshot, each piece is only a fragment, because the picture is unfathomable. All these tiny threads weave together, and maybe mine is blue and yours is yellow when they intersect. The thunder of a universe made out of words is enough to make even blue stars reel back and chatter in breathless dulcimer-like voices, blinking because they cannot see it all.
This is why I chase the Tapestry, why I chase woven glass. I cannot do more than run on this planet tumbling under my feet, chasing glimpses, because I don’t belong here. We’re all stories, being told right now with every breath named. I was born to run to the end, to die of living well, and so were you. You and I were born to rhythm. We’re poems, full of dandelions and meteor showers and Narnian waterfalls and hammering a nail into a board, of dreams and essence and a corner of a galaxy flung into motion by a Word, and we have names.
We are poems, and we are in every scene. Your threads and mine are being woven, all around us. You cannot grab and hold stars, you cannot cling to what was temporal and drag your heels. To refuse to run is to poke your head back in the dark.
Glory is sacrifice, glory is exhaustion, glory is having nothing left to give.
It is death by living. [N. D. Wilson, Death by Living]
For Further Reading
“Grand Canyon” — Andy Gullahorn
The Story We Tell Ourselves, Part 1 — Jason Gray
The Tapestry of Life — A. Andrew Joyce
Notes from the Tilt-A-Whirl and Death by Living by N. D. Wilson
If I Could Tell You…
[Beautiful photo of the Baltic Sea by Frank van de Velde]