Thursday, March 26, 2015

Eye trained on the sky

As part of the writing workshop with Cheryl Strayed (right?!), she offered us a series of prompts to consider. Here's one...

Create a summary of who you are.
There was Leo and Cygnus and Cassiopiea. And Draco and Virgo and Libra. But most of all I remember turning my face to the heavens and finding the points that made the handle and cup of Ursa Major. Alkaid, Mizar, Alcor, Alioth, Megrez, Phecda, Merak and Dubhe, names I didn’t know then, flat on my back, my skinny brown legs held fast against the earth in my 7th year.  
The sky over my hometown was always lit with stars, as far as you could see, the light pollution of larger cities far away. To my untrained eye and not scientific mind, the nighttime sky was a blur, an ocean of light, awash, save for the handle and cup, the only way I could get my bearings in the canopy of the world. 
And 7 turned into 17, my world increasingly complex. I was a failing high school student, newly fatherless, with sexual agency beyond my years, drunk on new freedom, coors light beer and the possibility contained in a thick course catalog from my newly matriculated university that I read like a bible. The stars were dimmed by the Dallas lights but vibrant on the road between Dallas and San Antonio where Sha and I steered her big gold cadillac into the night. Or Dallas to Houston. Or Dallas to Austin, fueled by our own sense of finding ourselves.
Those years felt ungrounded, unfixed, too much and too big. Unmoored, unskilled at navigating the map without an understanding of where I needed to go, 17 became 21 became 25 became 31, with mountaintops and oceans and foreign lands and jobs and wandering, so much wandering, in between. 
I did not fully know then, as I am just beginning to learn now in my 44th year, that I am capable of making sense of the stars, of orienting myself within the blur, of understanding the anchors in the sea of light. That in the universe of stars, and in the universe of life, it’s less about a roadmap and more about points of bearing. For a person who has sought the map, who has felt (and currently brutally feels) that the road is being made right before her feet, this is a revelation. Maybe it’s about integration instead of a specific direction. Maybe it’s about weaving the body, the mind and the mojo, understanding the landscape of possibility instead of a fixed horizon. Maybe the point of exploring is to understand where you are at any given point in time, but not be tethered by a specific path. Look at how well the explorers did when they thought they knew the way, but look at how they successfully navigated a way home by casting their eyes heavenward, trusting their bearings written in the night sky.

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