By Nicolette Baker
You watch the stars with some abstract fascination, but have you ever explored them?
In Denver, there’s a certain place where the ground feels so intimately close with the sky, it’s as if you’ll be swallowed by the huge expanse of blue. That’s where I imagine you’ll be, head tilted so far back, the greatness of the stars makes you feel the smallest you’ve ever been.
You, with your feet planted firmly on the ground. You’ll reach up, grasp the night sky and slowly pull yourself into the expanse — forearms flexed, taking up all your strength.
Close your eyes, and float with me.
Some reach to the cosmos for some sort of meaning, an explainer of the nuances of daily life. Your best friend will curse Mercury’s retrograde, your Tinder date ghosts with even the faintest mention of “I’m a Gemini.”
It’s hazy where those first predictions began, but you might start with ancient China or Babylon. Their predictions of rain, harvest or famine can’t be much different than your questions about your unattainable crush. You’ll still both seek the same reassurance in the constellations.
Or, maybe to you, they’ll be simply tiny, beautiful dots you’ll admire on your drive home during the dark winter months. NASA tells us there’s as many as 400 billion stars in the Milky Way — can you count them all with me?
There must be a vague metaphorical reference in a long-lost Coldplay song.
But the stars don’t shine for you. They’re simply here, existing. And as we pass them, you’ll notice the promptness with which they’ll line up to form the Little Dipper, Ursa Major. Orion stretches his great, large arms and reclines lazily across the horizon.
You’ll recognize the hunter by his seven brightest stars, his belt, his sword — if you tilt your head just a bit, it looks like he’s preparing for battle, not resting. Perhaps he’s doing both.
Is there other life out there? You’ll wonder this as I point out Venus, to your left.
The second planet from the sun and closest to Mother Earth, NASA tells us she spins in the opposite direction of what you’ve been used to. Careful, there — the surface of this reddish planet is 900 degrees. Please keep your hands to yourself.
It’s easy to float away, without direction or sense of time, but you’ll soon realize you should head back. You’d dream of spending decades up among the stars, but there are people who need you at home.
Grab my hand, and I’ll pull you back to Earth — with utmost reluctance and simple acceptance. There’s a bit of peace in knowing the existence of what’s out there, without fully understanding.
Until next time —