Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Star Sighting

It wasn't until I reached Greece that I realised how much I'd missed the stars. Missed that occasional glance upwards to see them quietly twinkling back at you. At home you could lie in the park and have to seek out the constellation of the Southern Cross or the Pleiades from amidst the tangle of other stars that filled the night sky.

But for two years I've been living in London, a city so large and so bright that even in our green little patch it was nigh impossible to see anything but the most determined of the stars shining through the perpetual layer of gloomy cloud. On occasion we would delight in a sighting of Venus, only to have technology inform us it was nothing so romantic, just a nameless little dot without constellation or story. After a while I ceased to look up except to gauge the presence of rain clouds. I ceased to treat stars as one of those simple delights and more as a fading memory from the days of my youth.

That was until I reached Astipalea. Sheltering there from the rough seas and queasy sailing I climbed out onto the upper deck and lying down on the matting stared up at the natural glitter above. To me, a girl from the south, it was a tangle of prettiness to which I could find no end and no beginning: there was no southern cross by which I could get my bearings and the saucepan had disappeared into the jumble before me.

However even then it was an awesome sight. Before me myths and legends peeped out, taunting me with my ignorance and taking from the the possibility of doing what the Ancient Hellenes had done, joining the dots above in accordance with the stories they'd revered so much. Tying it together, as though offering up a present to unwrap, a puzzle to solve was the milky way, meandering across the sky, a ribbon of shimmering silver against the midnight blue of the night sky.

It was perhaps fortunate that my misery ended before it could begin by the arrival of an astronomer who sat beside me and taught of the constellations while he learned of the myths associated.

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