Tuesday, October 2, 2012

finding the lion's heart.

Listening To: February Seven by The Avett Brothers
Quoted: "You are, at once, both the quiet and the confusion of my heart." - Franz Kafka

Happy Tuesday, lovelies! :) Today I'm writing through the rain storm. It looks like this:

And I'm drinking coffee from a mug with this Oscar Wilde quote. Like so:

"We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars." 

I've had this quote on my mind ever since I finished reading Brian Selznick's Wonderstruck.

I adore that quote. I remembered, as I was reading the book, that I used to have the quote on a coffee mug. But the mug had been missing for years. I can't even remember where I bought it. Maybe somewhere between here and Texas? I remember packing it for my trip home to Tennessee ... and it vanished.

And then it mysteriously reappeared last week.

So even though I'm trying to write today, I can't stop thinking about this wonderquote that keeps popping up in my stories and on my coffee cups. I've taken several breaks today just so I can:

1.) Watch the silver rain fall sideways and
2.) Per the quote's suggestion, look at the stars. Or, since it's daylight, look at star pictures. And read about sky-stuff.

Comets, in particular. 

I read about Halley's Comet, which was last visible to earthlings in 1986. (I'm guessing with uber-swank telescopes, you can maybe see Halley's Comet more often?) I realize many of you weren't even born back then (gahhhh!) but I was. And I don't remember seeing Halley's Comet. That's ridiculous ... because I'm positive my dad would have carried me outside and pointed up at the comet.

How can I not remember something as momentous as a comet? 

Theory #1: My brother was born that year, and I'd begged my parents for a sibling from pretty much the moment I started talking. My guess is that Chase's arrival eclipsed everything else, even a fancy comet.

Theory #2: Apparently, Halley's Comet had an off-year in 1986. It wasn't at its best visibility. Which stinks. Halley gets one chance every 70something years to strut its stuff and '86 was meh.

However. According to historical peeps, Halley circa 1910 was mesmerizing. The earth actually passed through the comet's tail. Naturally, a bit of panic ensued. One crazy scientist predicted that the world would be poisoned while passing through the comet's tail, and so various jerks who preyed on people's fears began selling all manner of Comet Protection Crap. Umbrellas (!), magic pills, and gas masks were among the CPC's that claimed to keep folks safe from imminent comet sizzle.

(Seriously though - Halley's Comet! What a unique and beautiful way to mark time, right? Consider this: every time Halley's Comet dances across our tiny corner of the universe, an entire generation has faded away. That's wild.)

After Halley, I read about a different comet, The Great Comet of 1811. This one wasn't photographed (...obviously :) but it was visible for a very long time. And it seems to have seriously impacted artists. In addition to sliding through the sky, The Great Comet makes a guest appearance in some of the best art of the era. William Blake was inspired by it. (So was this guy. )

Which only goes to show that star-stuff can scare you out of your wits or it can inspire you.

Or it can do both. 

(And maybe that's the best kind of inspiration? When it's a little bit of both?)

I've mentioned before that I'm a sky-freak. I'm totally smitten with clouds and horizons and sunsets. Starry nights are my favorite sky. ("Wild nights are my glory," as Madeleine Engle would say :) And some nights around here are so star-packed that it takes every ounce of restraint I have not to run out into the back yard and scream - joyfully. Let out a Barbaric yawp, Uncle Walt-style. :) (Sometimes I do run out into the back yard and stargaze but I don't scream. Or yawp. Neighbors aren't down with yawping.)

I look for:
my wishing star,
my dreaming star,
the big dipper,
(which looks more like a big waterslide to me)
and the red tangle of Mars.

I pretend
to write my name in the dust of the Milky Way.
And I pretend that all the slow-blinking planes
are really just wallflower-stars
who finally decided to get up and dance.

I have a favorite star. And it isn't the North Star, though I do appreciate that one. It isn't even the second star to the right, straight on till morning. (Though that one ranks really close to the top ;)

My favorite star is Regulus.

And not just because of the Harry Potter reference.

Regulus is in the Leo constellation. Leo, as you know, is in the shape of the lion. Apparently. (Whoever decided Leo was in the shape of a Lion was possibly drawing on a napkin while having a pint with friends.) To my untrained eye, Leo looks more like a swan. At best. Mostly, I think Leo looks like a mangled clothes hanger.

(As I type this, I'm beginning to wonder if I've actually seen Leo or if I think I'm looking at it ... but I'm actually looking at something else ... ) Anyway! :)

Leo is a lion.

And Regulus, the brightest, blue-white star in Leo*, marks the lion's heart.

Leo's star-heart is a spinner; forever whirling madly on its axis. I read that if Regulus spun barely faster than it already does, the star would fly apart. I totally get this feeling. I love people who make my heart feel that way.

That's what I love about the night sky; it makes me feel lion-hearted. Like anything is possible. Like -- there's a whole sky full of starlight that's been burning and blinking since the beginning time, guiding ships and guarding first kisses and challenging and inspiring. So why do I limit myself so easily?

I don't know why the Wilde quote keeps popping up. But I'd like to think that maybe Brian and Oscar  are trying to remind me of these things:

- Maybe I need to remember that some things become even more beautiful when I see them shining against the dark.

- Maybe I need to remember that the stars are still there even when I can't see them. To keep looking up. Because eventually the clouds will roll back and I'll know how to shine again. And I'll shine even brighter than before.

-  Maybe I need to remember that the same stars that inspired poets and prophets and sinners and saints can inspire me too, if I'll let them. If I'll open my heart, stop being so callous to the world, and see.

And finally, as best articulated by my darling Mumford & Sons:

"Hold onto what you believed in the light,
when darkness has robbed you of all your sight."

Which means this to me: There are truths in this world that are fixed, that are constant, even if I can't always see them. Love, in particular. Love doesn't fade when the world goes dark.

Here's a starry-truth I believe with all my heart: you are loved, and you will be loved, and there's a reason you're on this planet. Gutter-days and months and years are awful. But good days are coming again.

If you forget that, then I hope you look skyward.

Find the lion's heart.

And roar.

How've you been? Have you kicked off Boot Weather yet or is it still hot as blazes where you are? I hope you have a wonderful week! Hope you get a chance to sneak out and look at the stars :) 

*I'm not an astronomer or a science whiz (just a star-lover :). So some of this information could be a little off. For example, I think Regulus has lots of little star-friends who hangout nearby who are also called names like: Regulus 2 and Regulus 3. But Regulus is still the leader of the pack. The alpha. The queen bee. Regulus chalked her hair before Lauren Conrad ever blogged about it. Listened to Iron & Wine before they were ever featured on a Twilight soundtrack ... etc.

Also, Regulus will be eclipsed by an asteroid named Erigone in March of 2014. Except, if you read about it, smarty-pantser scientist will write that it's going to be "occulted" by Erigone. "Occulated" is, apparently, a more accurate description than eclipse. I think occulation is what happens when a bigger object passes in front of a smaller one? When I first read it, I thought it meant IMPACT and I was like, "Gahhhh! Erigone! Leave my Regulus alone!" But it's all good. Erigone is just passing by. Stopping long enough to chit chat, catch up, drink some coffee. "I haven't seen you in light-years!"

*waves nerd flag*

*goes back to real work* 


  1. It's crazy you posted this today - I just read something last night that shook my core (in a good way.) It's from "The Passage" by Justin Cronin:

    "I used to think you could look at the stars and that was God, right there. Like looking straight into his face. You needed the dark to see him plain."

    Beautiful. (The book is extremely creepy though. EXTREMELY creepy.)

  2. Wow, this was amazing, and just what I needed to hear today. I need some of that lion hearted courage myself to be able to embrace the darkness and look for stars within it.

  3. This is beautiful, Natalie. And the postscript at the end made me laugh.

  4. Loved this. :)

    Sunrises and sunsets are two of my favorite things. I've also always been interested in the stars and astronomy-things, but I've never been very good at locating anything in the sky. :)


  5. I LOVE the stars. So so much. Awesome post, Natalie.

  6. Love this post. One of my favorite parts about early morning cross country practice is seeing the stars. I always see the Little Dipper, at least I think that's what it is. I'm not really good at the precise names or science or anything, but I like the imagining part of it. That Oscar Wilde quote is my FAVORITE, too.

  7. Lovely!

    It makes me think of the Galileo quote, "I have loved the stars too fondly to be fearful of the night." Easier to believe in the light than in the dark, but like I've held onto before, there are treasures in the darkness. It says so in His Word. And I believe Him.

  8. This post reminded me of this great song by "of Monsters and Men" called "King and Lionheart".. it's very catchy. And now stuck in my head. And I wouldn't be the least bit surprised if you've heard it because you have an obvious ear for wonderful music.. but just in case you haven't, you should listen to it here.

    It says this;
    "Howling ghosts they reappear
    In mountains that are stacked with fear
    But you're a king and I'm a lionheart.
    A lionheart."

    Don't you like the thought of BEING the lionheart? I kind of do too.

    Wonderful thoughts. Thank you for sharing!