A Celestial Escape

In the midst of a world easily dazzled by noise and blaring headlines, we’ve developed such a strong fixation on the stars on the big screens that we often forget about the ones that lie above our very heads.  

Star-gazing and viewing meteor showers have become much of a ridiculed cliche, often associated with Tumblr quotes and unrealistic YA romance novels. Yet, as cheesy as the cliche might be, it does hold some truth to it; there are few things that are as unexplainably cathartic and serene as being underneath a glistening night sky.  

My first time watching a meteor shower was last summer in August: the Perseid shower. I had planned a few weeks in advance for this night, searching for nearby observatories and researching the peak times for the meteor shower. To my dismay, I was not met with nearly as much enthusiasm by my family. They believed it would be a waste of time and could not begin to imagine why anyone would put so much effort into something so seemingly capricious. However, I would not relent and with much hesitation, they finally agreed. 

Driving along the dark and winding streets, the long ride was punctuated with audible sighs.  As we finally arrived at our destination, my dad grumbled about having to drive for two hours out to the middle of nowhere just to see “a couple of dots in the sky." But as soon as we stepped out of the car and looked up, we all realized he was gravely mistaken. We didn't see "a couple of dots in the sky"; we saw thousands of glowing stars strewn across a sky that stretched for miles like a dazzling array of pearls. We were still only in the parking lot, not yet having even taken the five-minute walk to the observatory itself. Yet, I was already beginning to feel that something within me had lifted. There was such a pure sense of wonder and awe about the first sight of an unfiltered, luminescent sky to an eye that had only ever known suburbia’s lukewarm sheen. 

After reaching the observatory park, we laid out our blanket on the dewy grass and took in the scene. Hundreds of people from all walks of life were scattered about the place just like the very stars that shone above them. Photographers, teenagers, parents, elders, small and children were all bound together by the mystifying allure of the cosmos. It was strange to think that a place so seemingly remote and quiet from the outside could have so much energy and life pulsing within it. I shifted from my seated position and laid down on the blanket taking in an entirely different scene: the sky. The heavens blossomed high above me, flaunting their iridescent grandeur. I had never felt so distant yet so connected to something as I did that night. Gradually, a sense of peace washed over me. It felt like I was living in a different world, completely isolated from the hassle and commotion of real life: a world where responsibilities and obligations didn't exist; a world where all was still and I finally had a chance to just be.  

“You see that? That’s the Little Dipper! Now, that last big star at the end of the handle—that’s Polaris, the North Star.” I turned behind me to find a father teaching his son about navigation by the stars. The young boy was transfixed by the words of his father and fascinated by the power held within the stars. It was such a simple yet beautiful exchange. I thought about the young boy coming back to this very spot several years later, disclosing the secrets of the universe to his children just as his father had to him, immortalizing a bridge between our history and the present.  

Suddenly, I heard a roar in the crowd as multiple people screamed, “Look up!”. And there it was. I had almost missed it, but right above me, a bright spark of light quickly flashed, leaving an entire field of people breathless. Children and adults alike hollered and cheered. Others gasped and simply let their awed silence speak for them. I felt a peculiar sense of unity sitting within this vast mosaic of strangers. My heart beats for moments like this.

Engrossed in my own thoughts, I was startled as I felt someone softly pat my shoulder—it was my father. He looked at me, eyes beaming with warmth and whispered, “Thank you. I needed this night.”

By Rawan Olma

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