Monday, October 1, 2012

Weather Report: Stars

A sunset at Saidor, PNG. Those colours are real.
I watch the moon rise at Saidor, Papua New Guinea. The sun has died in a brilliance of travel brochures. Coconut trees silhouette against fire until their fronds are streaks of India ink dripping from the branches. I can hear the distant thrum of the Nankina river, a 15 minute walk. It must have rained up in the mountains, but here the night is clear.

Sunsets in the tropics are like lighting a match—struck, flares, dies. Wisps of charcoal trail upwards, and I can see star-eyes glinting, blinking through the fabric of the sky. I crane my neck back—I had heard Orion was visible below the equator... a traveller from the north to bring news of home. But I can’t see him. Instead, I feel dizzy, spinning with motion sickness—why does the earth whirl so fast? The Milky Way wraps her arms around the sky, and I drop to grass beneath sleeping trees.

Can they dream
, I wonder, of worlds on the other side of the earth? Where pines replace buai and violets outlast the hibiscus? Where a 15-hour difference means my family sleeps when I sit awake?

When I was a child, my dad would pull out the telescope and walk until the house lights were hidden and the barest glow on the horizon came from the Twin Cities, 70 miles away. The sky was a bowl, tipped over the Minnesota prairie, and we would stretch on our backs, grass in our hair, marvelling at the promise of Abraham and the Andromeda galaxy. “Look,” he would say, out of the dark, “see that planet? See that nebula?” And I knew from his voice that he was smiling. The heavens declare the glory of God...

Now, in the darkness of Saidor, before our generator groans to life and lights flick on around the station, I can hear the guitars strum for evening lotu (worship). It’s time for me to go inside, but I break off another piece of grass, bend it in my fingers. Wait, look up, taste the words of David:

When I look at the night sky and see the work of your fingers—the moon and the stars you set in place…

Hemispheres dissolve, and I think of my Fathers, watching the stars.