Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Between There and Here

I learned from this weekend’s planetarium visit that the bright star I’m seeing, just right and up from the moon is in fact Jupiter. Not a star at all. The brightest stars are tricks. Venus always swizzes me into thinking it’s the first star, and even though I always realise it’s not, I still wish on it anyway. 

Inside the planetarium I wanted to lie down. I wish I’d had it to myself. When I was a kid, I stuck glow-in-the-dark stars on my ceiling in the shape of constellations. It was tricky to do, and I only got so far as Libra, Ursa Major (inc. the Plough) and Ursa Minor, and Cassiopeia (my favourite tortoise). Every night, I’d wait in the dark for them to start shining, and I’d make believe I was out in a field somewhere, or on a rooftop, just me and the night sky. I liked the vastness of it. The idea that it reached forever.

I’m in that weird place at the moment, where I’m half in a book’s world and half here. There’s the feeling of not being tethered. I’m seeing everything through the book’s lens, staring up at the moon full of questions, half-lost. 

There was something the planetarium guide said about the roots of the word astronaut. That it literally means ‘sailor of the stars’, and it brought back a memory of the kitchen bench we had when I was little, and how me and my sister would turn it upside down so it became a boat. We’d sail it up and down rivers and across oceans, its wood creaking in the dark waters. I don’t know if we had the North Star to guide us. But my fascination with survival manuals started early, so it’s entirely possible I knew how to navigate with the heart of a sailor, even then. 

It’s been a strange week. I stared at the floor of a gallery for what could easily have been an hour, watching star maps and projections of the night sky at my feet. And it seemed I was on the surface of the moon. This is the beginning of something. 

And after, in the planetarium, more projections, this time of the actual moon’s surface, and me at ground level, almost there. But not there. But not quite here, either. And under the stars and the planets, the realisation hit me that I’ll probably never get to walk on the moon. And it broke my heart.

So right now there are bright stars, and fake firework-stars, bangs and crashes and all the gunpowder and copper chloride I could ever want. And I’m jealous of the man who jumped from space, not for the jump, but for what he saw. And I’m jealous of the twelve people who’ve walked on the moon. And I wonder if there are some things you never let go of. Some wishes you keep on making, even if you know you’re not really wishing on stars. 

I don’t want to finish the book. I like the wondering how it’s all going to turn out, I like not quite understanding what’s going on. I have one foot there and one foot here. And tomorrow, well, later today now, I’m going to the gallery again. To watch the stars beneath my feet, and be fully in that place, yet make believe I’m on the moon, for as long as I am.

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