The Loneliest Star

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Yesterday was the first day of autumn and I can feel the way the earth is moving. Our two hemispheres receive the sun’s rays equally for a spell—night and day stand side-by-side, neither one outreaching the other. We call it the equinox—from the Latin aequus (equal) and nox (night). Only it doesn’t feel equal to me. The morning is slow in coming and evening slips down over the horizon too quickly. The sun is stingy with her light and the days bleed moments before we can wrap them up.

There was a time when people were more in tune with the rhythms of nature, when the sky was their clock and calendar. We see this evidenced in ancient man-made structures such as the Intihuatana Stone at Machu Picchu in Peru. This unassuming stone structure has been shown to precisely date the equinoxes and other celestial events. The word intihuatana means “for tying the sun.” The shadow the stone casts tracks the journey of the sun across the sky throughout the year.

The night sky, too, announces autumn, with certain constellations moving into prominent view. But also, there rises in the southern sky what some call the “Loneliest Star.” This star, also known as the “Autumn Star,” or the “Lonely One” is thus called because it is the only bright star in that part of the sky this time of year. Its formal name is Fomalhaut, which comes from the Arabic Fum al Hut, meaning “mouth of the fish.” Fomalhaut, the Lonely One, is the brightest star in Piscis Austrinus (the Southern Fish).

Last night, I went outside and stood facing south and searched the horizon for the brightest star. Fomalhaut did, indeed, look lonely in the broad expanse of night sky. As I stood under that twinkling canopy, I felt a kinship with the Lonely One. I have spoken before of the longing that autumn evokes. That sweet yearning pulled at my heartstrings urgently as I stood alone among the song of cicadas and crickets. Sometimes this feeling of emptiness can feel big enough to swallow me whole. The urge to fall into that well of darkness is strong at times.

In Romans chapter 13 the apostle Paul says, “The night is nearly over. The day is almost here. Live in the light.” He is telling us we have a choice to make. Spiritually speaking, in this tired world, it’s not yet day, and it’s not quite night: both are right here, within our grasp. Two ways of life. And even though we may have chosen the way of light, the darkness is still very present—clings to our skin like the damp air of night.

I think the ancient people, with their keen awareness of the rhythms of nature, understood the dueling forces of dark and light much better than we. I’m trying to notice the rhythms built into this good earth more. I feel the lightness of each leaf I see fall from my maples in the back yard. I study the way of the honeybee, knee deep in the goldenrod. I watch the birds and butterflies shed a new season as they flock southerly.

But I am earthbound—no winging out of this for me. Still, I make a choice. A choice to see this longing inside of me as something good, something made of light. A longing for life the way our good God intended it to be.

Autumn

on the bright wing
of morning
I touch the hem

of dawn;
soar through stardust
and dew as light

spreads like
spilled milk, slowly
blinding the eyes

of heaven, light
upon light,
trembling like

a bird preparing
for flight. my body
blooms until all

the sky and I are
one diaphanous
blue wing.

Playdates with God: Autumn Longing

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Jeff and I ran away to Lexington together this weekend. It was a quick overnight, one we traditionally make on black Friday to do some holiday shopping. But this year, we will have our nest full again over Thanksgiving week, so we made the break for Kentucky early.

My husband and I always have fun exploring new places, but it wasn’t our time in the city that sung God’s sweet song to me. Driving through the Kentucky farmland in the autumn, new music tickling my ear, the beauty of skeletal trees whispering austerity to my spirit … this is where God came to me this weekend. And I sat dumbstruck in the passenger seat.

I always turn to C.S. Lewis as my companion during this season. He captures the longing of autumn so articulately. In my book I talk about how he grasped onto the word sehnsucht—that German word with no real English equivalent encapsulating a longing for home, a homesickness for a place we’ve never been. Lewis famously adored autumn as a time of awakening, a season where joy and sorrow hold hands to reveal to us that we were made for something more.

In the fall I am always filled with a sense of expectation—the hope that something wonderful, something life-transforming is about to happen. I go to bed each day in disappointment, wondering what is this churning inside of me? I should be well familiar with this by now, I wrote a book about it, for Pete’s sake. But life makes no exceptions for slow learners and my memory is surprisingly short. I mistake this feeling as pointing me toward something tangible, but I learn over and over and over again it is the feeling itself that stirs my awareness of God inside of me.

Lewis says it like this, “All joy (as distinct from mere pleasure, still more amusement) emphasizes our pilgrim status; always reminds, beckons, awakens desire. Our best havings are wantings.”

This wanting, this longing, how sweetly it fills my spirit! This sense of expectation I carry with me reminds me that most of the time when wonderful things happen, they happen slowly. No sudden reveal, rather, a slow awakening like a flower opening to the morning sun.

on the bright wing
of morning
I touch the hem
of dawn;
soar through stardust
and dew as light
spreads like
spilled milk, slowly
blinding the eyes
of heaven, light
upon light,
trembling like
a bird preparing
for flight. my body
blooms until all
the sky and I are
one diaphanous
blue wing.

Every Monday I share one of my Playdates with God. I would love to hear about yours. It can be anything: outside, quiet time. Maybe it’s solitary. Maybe it’s loud and crowded. Just find God and know joy. Click on the button below to add your link. I try to visit a few of your stories every week, so if you are a new visitor, be sure to let me know in the comments so I can welcome you. Grab my button at the bottom of the page and join us.

 

Laura Boggess