Thursday, November 4, 2010

star gazing

I saw the Big Dipper this morning. In these last days before the time change, it is still quite dark outside when I shuffle out in my pajamas and sweatshirt to collect the daily newspapers. I saw dozens of stars, and the moon, as well, but right above our house I recognized the stars that make up the Big Dipper.

I stood there in the driveway for a while, gazing upward and remembering the first time my dad pointed out the constellations to me. Our family was visiting one of his fraternity brothers, and while the wives and the other kiddies stayed in the house on that warm summer night, I only wanted to be outside with my dad and his friend as they smoked their cigars and reminisced. We sat in lawn chairs in the back yard as the sky darkened and the stars appeared. It must have been darker there than I was used to because the sky was just full of stars. My dad pointed out the Big Dipper and the Little Dipper with the North Star at its tip.

I was fascinated. So much so that I went home and memorized a poem from a reading book my aunt had given me. She was an elementary school teacher at the time, and the book must have been from a series they were no longer using. I loved that book and read it from cover to cover many times. I knew right where to search for it in the attic today, and when I found it, the book mark I made probably fifty years ago was still marking this poem.

The Man in the Moon

The man in the moon as he sails the sky
is a very remarkable skipper,
but he made a mistake when he tried to take
a drink of milk from the Dipper.
He dipped right out of the Milky Way,
and slowly and carefully filled it.
The Big Bear growled, and the Little Bear howled,
and frightened him so that he spilled it!

And yes, I wrote most of that from memory. I am amazed at the things I can't remember from day to day, and equally amazed by what remains. I'm going to read my book now. Reading Today Series: Stories Old and New...


Ben said...

I remember that poem!

What a nice thing, pausing to smell the proverbial roses, taking a minute to look up rather than rushing back in the house. And I always enjoy these vignettes from your childhood.

I remember delivering the Cleveland Plain Dealer in my neighborhood way early in the morning - before riding the bus to high school. Some winter mornings the air was so clear and dry, the sky seemed to be overflowing with stars. I never learned many constellations, but I taught the kids everything I knew. Hopefully I passed down that sense of wonder that you and I share.

jsdknits said...

Even after you've left Ohio, you'll be able to see the same stars!

anne mancine said...

How funny you should say that, Janet! I dated a guy when I was in high school who visited Indian reservations out west one summer with a church youth group. He told me he looked at the stars at night and thought of me looking at them too. I was smitten!

jamanci said...

i've always loved watching the stars, in the early morning especially. many's the summer night i spent with my pillow in the window well, so i could look at the stars and watch them fade with the dawn.

now that i leave for work before dawn, i look up every morning to see where the stars are and how they're looking. even with the time change, it's still black when i leave, and today i saw orion fading as the eastern sky lightened to an after-sunset turquoise.

i can't help but feel bad for the people who don't notice these little things we all seem to--they can't enjoy them if they're not seeing them!