Beyond Necklace of Stars writer Jackie takes us on a far-ranging journey through the stars and through time in her short prose poem Star Map, below. She then gives us her own personal journey into star-gazing in her AUTHOR’S NOTE, explaining the significance of the constellations to her.
Were the stars our home? Have we long forgotten? The universe stands silent. The stars silent, their brillance only surpassed by the sun, a dazzling display. Each nights array a flickering constant. Piercing the cloak of darkness, twinkling fairy lights for us to behold. For mariners they light the way, navigation points to sailors of old.
I moved into a property with a skylight and suddenly one day thought to myself, “I need a telescope!” Then I got a star map and learnt the constellations and took my star explorations from there. The high room became my Observatory, a window set in a roof.
Once you become embroiled, looking at the stars and planets, it makes you more aware. Normally you’re caught up in life here on earth, but it’s not until you start observing the stars that you can see beyond your own nose. It makes you think about space.
I’ve always been intrigued by ancient Egyptians, their beliefs. My dad was stationed in Egypt with the army in the early 1950s, at the Suez Canal. In fact, he used to go swimming in the Canal. He’d talk about Egypt, a fascinating place — palm trees and pyramids. As a child, it was an adventure to me, I romanticised it, it made me think of faraway lands, ancient cultures.
It took me into connection with different spiritualisms. All very interesting, the belief in Karma and the afterlife which is shared by so many cultures. If you look up at the stars in a certain way it can make you feel very small. We are just another rock with life on it in the solar system, in the wider universe. If you study the sky from a religious point of view, you think who’s made all this? All this wonder.
I don’t believe life human life happened just because we accidentally evolved, it’s not only random conditions. What’s the chance of that? It would be naive and arrogant to think that we are the only intelligent life on Earth, or in the universe. We still need to test that idea, like Christopher Columbus asking is the Earth is flat. “Let’s find out shall we? If I fall off the edge of the world, you won’t hear back from me!” Thank goodness for the intrepid adventurers, for the geniuses and visionaries asking: is there something else out there?
Questioning the night sky leads you to other questions. For instance as soon as you have children you think about the environment, you think about what’s going wrong environmentally, you think about their future. Do you want them to live in a world that is on the brink of extinction? We don’t want our children to be dinosaurs! We want them to have a life that isn’t polluted or fearful.
The stars make you nature aware. You gaze on what’s in the sky and then that gaze turns itself back to down here. You learn to see the birds in the trees. I never really looked at them before, but it slaps you in the face when you’re aware. A lot of the time I feel like Alice in Wonderland, amazed – and yet it was all here before, why didn’t I see it? All that’s missing is the White Rabbit. You’re in Wonderland. Look at the clouds, the beauty and the form, look at how different each one is.
I’ve wasted years being a zombie and now I am alive at last. Instead of autopilot, someone’s flipped the switch. And it started with looking at the stars.
Image: visual poem ‘Starsperience’ by Gill Ormond