My enchantment with stargazing started when I was a small boy. One night, after I really was too big for my mom to carry me, I woke up in her arms as the screen door squealed open. I was wrapped in my favorite patchwork quilt in a way that the cold April air chilled only my nose. Leaves crunched underfoot as she carried me behind the sleeping chickens in the old chicken coop, and a few of the goats in the pasture startled. She eased us down to the ground beneath the old wiry Apple tree that was my imaginary pirate ship, and the place of many Tarzan adventures.
“Mom, what are we doing?”
“Just watch, baby,” she whispered, nodding to the inky black sky.
Still confused and mostly groggy, I pushed myself deeper into her lap until I saw through my half-closed eyes, one, then two. Three at once! Four more fell! Bright streaks of light screaming through the black abyss overhead. The Lyrids meteor shower was raining fire through the sky. We looked to the heavens, as frost formed around us on the Carolina grass, until the slow rise of daylight began and we could no longer see the trails of the stars burning through the atmosphere.
Since that night in the backyard of my childhood home, I have spent countless nights perched beneath dark skies with eyes wide open. I have seen stars so bright they cast shadows on the decks of ships, and the milky way so vibrant I should have been able to climb through it, reaching from star to star. When the sky is that dark, it is like being in a jewelry store with the black velvet laid out and shimmering diamonds spread in constellations.
Stargazing is among the purest highs a person can experience. With friends, strangers, lovers, brothers, mothers even; it really does not matter. The simple act of looking to the late night sky will make you smile and wonder, think and question, fall and jump.
Someone recently asked how many shooting stars I had seen. I could only say “there is no way to know” because I have been in search of their magic for as long as I can recall. There are few things greater in life than food, love, and stargazing (if you can put all three together you have done something truly right). While simple, this maxim has created some of my most cherished memories, and I know it will continue to do so for ever more.