On the first cold morning of October I woke up twice – at 4:17 and 4:37 – for no apparent reason. The third time waking, though, I knew I needed to get up. Rolling to the edge of my bed, I felt around for my glasses and put my soles to the floor.
In darkness, I shuffle down the carpeted stairs. Halfway down, I am halted by the crisp starlight that is pouring through the high south window.
I sit down to watch – to listen. I am the stars’ pupil this morning.
The sky is a bear’s black eye reflecting embers while she walks the edge of the fire, between night and morning, undetected.
Later, I make it the rest of way down the stairs. I stand breathing and barefoot in my living room with palms outstretched – in the baggy basketball shorts I gleaned from my brother-in-law’s Goodwill pile.
With its soft clicks and gurgles, the sound of the coffee pot turning on automatically at six draws me to the glare on the inside of the window. I walk into the kitchen and lay a towel over the oven clock’s blue numbers. That’s better.
I return to the window.
A few minutes later a doe trips the floodlight’s motion sensor on her way back into the safety of the forest from a night spent in the open soybean fields.
Over the next hours, I am wedged between the light of the generations of far-away-from-us and this closest-to-us star. The sun’s rising glazes black sky blue, and strokes silver to the backs of the last few cottonwood leaves, which soon will fall.
In daylight, my daughter, three years old with white hair, bumps down the stairs and jumps onto my lap as I scribble notes on a piece of torn scrap paper. I wrap my arms around her and ask, “What are stars, love?”
“Sometimes they twinkle at me. Stars have voices.”
Maybe it was their chatter that woke me, three times, this first cold morning of October.