Sea of Stars

“Care for a cup?” This is the way every day should start, I say to myself, as Leroy goes to get me a cup of his special blend. Coconut water and pulp from the trees out front. Milk. Sugar. Stir. Its pretty much the best thing you’ll ever put in your mouth. Electrolytes, they tell me, electrolytes are why you drink it. It will make you stand up tall and ready to take on the day. Yet, certain that no amount of coconuts will make me taller, and already prepared to take on the day, I drink it for one reason alone. It is absolutely delicious.

And after three days of teasing me to go in the kitchen and fix him a meal, Manex does what is at the same time both unexpected and inevitable – he makes us breakfast. I decide that this morning what I have witnessed is not a feminist victory, but an authentic act of kindness and so I receive it with appropriate gratitude. Chicken eggs freshly gathered from the hen house are transformed under the delicate touch of BMH‘s Assistant Construction Coordinator into what may just be the most perfect over easy eggs I have ever seen.

This day has begun with what I felt sure were heroic acts of community and love. This day had begun just about as well as the night before it had ended.

The night in question had ended as Jess and Alex and I had lain flat on our backs on the rooftop patio of BMH counting the shooting stars that crossed overhead. It was amazing to me that the longer I lay there, the more stars appeared – as if the sky that arcs over the surrounding sea was a sea unto itself in which more bright specks of light floated to the surface the longer you watched. Our eyes, becoming accustomed to the darkness, spotted one shooting star after another as our mouths and hands took turns pointing and crying out “there’s another!”

After a long day that ended in a vigorous hour of play with the local school children, we had debated for probably about an hour how to spend the evening; the lackadaisical conversation somehow itself becoming the evening’s activity. How should we spend one of the last nights that Jess and Alex would be on the island. Beach? Too likely to fall with their injuries. Movie? Really? On a beautiful Bahamian night? But pondering the stars, spread across the sky in a quantity I have never seen before – that was an activity worthy of such a night.

I reflected on how unlikely a choice this would be for me back home. With so many distractions – gadgets – television – cable – phonecalls – “to do” lists – deadlines. Stars? Who has time for that? And yet, in that moment, it was hard to believe that I had ever spent an evening in any other manner.

As we lay on our backs, spread out around the roof, completely horizontal, we took a poll to gauge our tiredness factor – Alex was at 6 of 10, Jess and I were at about 7. Not quite ready to sleep, but getting there. I decide that I will wait for just one more shooting star to cross the sky. And after that one more. And one more. And maybe just one more.

This vibrant, moving, shifting sky is a place I can easily imagine sleeping under; truly, more than just imagine sleeping under, long to sleep under. But knowing that while that choice could easily be made in the intoxicating darkness, by daylight my body would be swollen with bug bites and scolding its nocturnal half like a chiding spouse. Yet, it is hard to pull myself away. Growing up camping, I have always loved sleeping under the stars. When I was a child, I was given glow in the dark stars for Christmas. Predictably, like the focused and determined child I was, I took a star map and painstakingly applied them to my ceiling. Even now, when I am home, I delight in turning out the lights and watching the night sky and constellations burst into view above my head.

But this sky shows me something altogether different. No static, stationary, pasted-in-place stars here. These stars twinkle, they pop, they soar across the sky in shooting arcs. This sky is alive. Just as alive as this place. And I realize it is all moving, all alive. The plants in the brush. The water in the sea. Even the stars in the sky. Unlike the fixed, concrete world I have spent so much time in – this world is alive.

I long to come alive like this place. Not to be bound, stuck, stationary. Not to be predictable, common place, anticipated. There is no way that an imitation of life can be acceptable once the authentic thing has been experienced. And with that I rejoice and give thanks to this great, powerful, mysterious, uncontrollable, unpredictable God who “danced in the moon and the stars and the sun.” No, not give thanks to God, I give thanks with God, knowing that God rejoices in my delight just as I rejoice in God’s.

And with that, I slip away to bed, unsuspecting that the morning would hold its own divine delights as Leroy and Manex, now asleep in their beds, would whip up blessings of encouragement and fellowship for my injured friends and I. But not quite yet. For a few more hours this narrow strip of land would slumber, as I did, surrounded below by its sea of liquid mystery and above by God’s endless sea of stars.

Leroy and I share a coconut during our hard day's work.
Leroy and I share a coconut during our hard day’s work.
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