Of the Star Chart
I selected this star chart for two primary reasons:
1. I know it better than the other skies, and
2. This is a map of the first evening my now-partner and I spent stargazing.
Bear in mind that this is, in truth, the sky I know the best just by sight and by memory, and I'm a decent eye for which planets are out. So here I am, regaling the man who was not my partner at the time with what little space trivia I have, on a mild summer night after a lovely evening out. He turns to me, hand on his chin, and says: "Tell me more about the stars."
At which point two things happened instantaneously:
1. My heart absolutely melted, because how could it not?!
2. The ice-cold, sinking sensation of "oh, no" traveled right into the pit of my stomach.
Because, you see, I was out. I couldn't tell him more about the stars, as I had depleted what little knowledge I had right before his (oh-so charming) request. But what could I do? Say "oh sorry, I can't"? Absolutely not, thank you very much, so I did what little I could as convincingly as I could: brought up the astronomer's pet peeve of 'Scorpio' vs. 'Scorpius,' prattled off some moon knowledge about Jupiter and Saturn, the likes.
But I couldn't tell him any more about the stars. The following evening, I studied for the next time we stargazed; but that wouldn't be until two years later, in August of 2020 after a months-long separation that COVID so kindly provided us. And when we gazed into the stars on that night, there were so many stars in the sky that I could hardly locate the constellations that I knew. We could see the ribbon of the Milky Way, and caught no fewer than seven shooting stars.
When the constraints of our first light-polluted stargaze were lifted, we were changed by the sky that we had never seen before but been under the entire time. And this time, we didn't talk about the stars; we didn't speak hardly at all. We each sat in our own deck chairs, reclined so far that not even the tops of the coastal trees made it into our viewpoint. The sky was so endless that I had to secure my grip on the chair to assure my body there was no way I could fall up into it, and so dark I could hardly see my partner, who was only a foot or so away. When we eventually found ourselves acclimated to this vastness, there was great comfort.
So this piece is to both of our stargazing ventures; to the stars we know well, and to all the rest we yearn to see again, on mild summer evenings by the beach, hours away from our homes.