I remember the exact moment my near obsession with space and the stars began. July 20, 1969. My Mom woke me up, wrapped me in a blanket, and we sat in front of the TV in our den watching humans walk on the moon for the first time. They left their footprints….on the moon!
I remember Mom’s excitement. I could feel it like electricity in the air. She had the same awed smile on her face reflected on my own face. It was pure magic!
On my 12th birthday, Mom came through again. While my Dad loved me, my Mom “got” me. She fueled the obsession just a bit more.
She got me a telescope.
I ran outside to point my new telescope at the moon. I could see the craters, even some of the larger debris streaks. Magic again, so I grabbed the telescope and ran inside to get Mom. She needed to see this.
I dropped the telescope before I got to the door.
I couldn’t believe it. I heard the glass rattling around inside. My connection with the stars shattered before it even took a good hold. I was beyond heartbroken.
My Mom used her Zen of patient parents of clumsy kids to flip over the telescope and gently jiggle the lens back into place. It was fixed! We went outside and looked at the moon for hours.
That moment gave me a connection to my mother that never went away. Through the teenage terror years and beyond, no matter the hurt feelings or anger, that telescope and our love of space kept us connected.
I remember a particularly bad night. Mom was going through menopause, and I was at the height of a hormone-fueled, insanity-inducing teenage tantrum. We screamed at each other. I grabbed my telescope and stomped outside.
Not thinking or really trying to find anything, just railing about the unfairness of adults, I turned my telescope to a bright planet I thought was Jupiter. It took a few minutes to focus, and then I gasped.
Saturn in its ringed glory floated into my field of vision.
A tannish grey planet with the “ears” all the books I’d read told me to look for serenely centered itself in the lens. I could see the rings, really tell what they were. I could actually make out a separation in the rings so it looked like two.
The argument was forgotten. I started to grab the telescope and run back inside, but remembered my 12th birthday and the horror of the broken lens. I slowly backed away from the telescope. It couldn’t break now. Mom HAD to see this.
I barreled into the house screaming at the top of my lungs, “I can see Saturn’s rings, I can see them!” I dragged my laughing mother to the telescope and watched a look cross her face. The same one she had as we watched the moon landing.
My Mom has since passed away. I miss her every day, sometimes so bad my chest aches. The teen years had turned to an adulthood that turned us into best friends, and I miss her.
A few weeks ago, my husband and I visited his parents on their farm. It’s way out in the country. We don’t often get to stay overnight, but this night we did. And, for the first time in the few nights we have stayed, it wasn’t a cloudy night.
After everyone but my husband and I had gone to bed, I started out the door. My husband followed me out. I think he knew what I’d find out there having grown up with the wide fields and dark skies.
As I cleared the trees and looked up, I found I couldn’t breathe. My mouth hung open. The sky was bursting with stars, more than I’d ever seen in my life. Two meteorites, first one and then the other, flashed out of the Cosmos leaving thin, white streaks of light gone before I could even blink.
And I could feel a connection with, well, with everything. Absolutely everything.
I could feel the movement of the Earth, its turning, its surging run through space. I felt the trees surrounding us, the grass in the fields. I felt expanded, connected. The breeze that touched my cheek touched animals in the fields, the grass.
I felt the universe.
As I stood there, I felt my husband’s hand on my back. When I turned, he chuckled, “I know that look. You’ll fall over trying to look at it all. I got you.” He spoke quietly, almost reverently. We were in a sacred space.
I smiled at him as the universe shrank back to just one connection, the one between my husband and me. He asked me to point out the constellations to him like I did at home in the suburbs sometimes.
“I can’t,” I whispered back. “There are so many stars I can’t tell where they are. I can see the Milky Way out here. I’ve never seen that before.” Before I could catch myself, I asked him, “Think Mom sees all this?”
He took my hand and that connection expanded to everything again as he breathed, “Oh, yeah.”
Since that night, I’ve thought about my connection with, well, like I said before, everything. I’m more aware of that connection, make more of an effort to feel it, and know it. Really know it.
It’s like there is a tugging inside me to reach out to whatever I’m near. A tree, another person, an animal. There is a feeling of kindred, and it’s changed me. That connection is us. All of us. Everything here on Earth, in the Universe, and inside our minds.
I don’t have all the answers. I can only say what I feel. And what I felt when I looked up into an endless sky full of stars and an arm of the galaxy where we live, was that I was more. More of me, but also more of everything else.
I am the Universe, and the Universe is me.
I belong. I’m responsible. Connected. What I do matters not just to me, but to everything everywhere. That small ripple I create with the moments of my life spreads across the universe, both the one outside of me and the one inside.
And somewhere, in that great vastness, I can feel my Mom smiling.
Stephanie Whitehead is a Reiki Master Practitioner/Teacher, provider of massage to service, working, and companion animals, writer, and speaker. You can contact Stephanie at firstname.lastname@example.org