Have you ever watched the stars rise?

The sunrise, sunsets, oh! Everybody’s watched them. But the stars? A mournfully beautiful practice. And so ancient! Those That Came Before stared at these same stars; the points of light might be dead for all I know, burnt to the blackness of sky, their memory-light still hurtling, hurtling: a welcome (?) reminder of things gone, things that will go.

Tonight I watched the stars rise. Sitting on a woven plastic mat, on that dash-mark between two evening prayers my Senegalese family spends together—the men and older women pausing their devotional demonstrations, the younger women cooking raar, evening meal, the younger women quieting child-gurgles, the younger women bare-breast feeding happybaby.

Tonight, I lay back in a perfect savasana and watched the stars rise. First Venus, not a star but acting like one, always the brightest at home, too, coming out when the sky is still dust-blue. Then smatterings of star-freckles like those springing—more daily—on my sun-confused skin.

Among a faint, faint cluster one star is brighter than the others. It moves. Slow. Bumbling, in not-quite-a-straight line. A satellite? Plane?

The stars don’t hear the rippling around me of Wolof noises that are now friendly, expected, comforting; they can’t see my occasional night-time, I-really-miss-mom tears. The stars do not smell the cinnamon—or is it clove?—tinge to my morning café touba; don’t feel the simultaneous panic (this is not where I belong, how stupid of me to think I could make an impact here!) and elation (I am where I am because I belong, everything I do here is making some bit of impact!) Of these earthly trifles the stars know, care little.

Still, the stars are. Still they rise, some Ancient One pushing an acacia thorn through the darkening sky blanket. They were there tonight for Senegalese, Oregonians. They will be there tomorrow. For all our narcissistic, human fatalism, they will still, still, still be there long after we are gone.

Tonight I watched the stars rise.

*Biidéo: Wolof for star.