Twinkle, twinkle, little star, how I wonder what you are…”Stargazing

That may’ve been the first question I ever asked as a human being.

Along with “The Itsy-Bitsy Spider” and “Happy Birthday,” it was among the first songs I ever learned to sing.

I quickly honed in on “Twinkle, Twinkle,” at the heart of which led to a lifelong need to keep asking questions.

In 2008, the year Mom and Dad died, I couldn’t stop looking up at the sky. Daytime, nighttime, sunny or cloudy—it must’ve been an old habit.

Our Maryland neighbor Mr. Harrison kept a telescope in his backyard shed. One summer he invited me and my brother to gaze at either a comet or meteor—I can’t recall which.

Wow, I thought, I have to get a telescope, too!

In Minnesota I often stargazed during the summers before high school, on our dock at Casco Point. Late at night I’d lay down at the end of the dock to gaze at the stars. I discovered I could lie there for a long time. Which were the brightest? Was the moon out that night? Were those planets or distant suns? And exactly what was that dim, slowly moving light across my field of vision? A satellite? Or even a UFO?

Stargazing remains in the triad of my favorite things, along with daytalking and nightwalking.

Daytalking is entirely cerebral: a joyful confluence of thoughts seemingly beamed in from somewhere else, but shared aloud instantly.

Nightwalking is the opposite: emotional, internal, restless, and maybe just a bit sad and lonely.

I loved night—its mystery and shadows, its furtive, distant lights. As kids we were creatures of the night—at least until the folks called us home, usually around 10 p.m. With dogs at our heels, we prowled the streets just after sundown when the streetlights hummed, then crackled and flickered on, blazing blue-white and casting eerie shadows.

stargazing2I recall one such night. I stood at the corner of Dunwoody Avenue and Casco Point Road, looking up at a streetlight that had just switched on, humming Van Morrison’s “Domino” to myself. Maybe I’d just heard it on KDWB and was wondering about the lyrics, “Don’t wanna discuss it/Think it’s time for a change/You may get disgusted/Start thinkin’ that I’m strange…”

Wow. Something was up with this Van guy. Time to funk it up a bit under the streetlight, no?

These memories … on the dock late at night with a vast ocean of stars above, or standing below a lone streetlight in a mid-’70s lakeshore neighborhood, R&B on the radio, kicking it down the street before going home.

Stargazing—the questioning branch of my personal worldview—has brought me the happiest and most absorbing moments in my working life.

Case in point, as mentioned in the previous post, I spent 1988 researching and drafting a spec screenplay about the 19th century British actress Ellen Terry. I took a first draft to England on the eve of my 30th birthday, in 1989, where I spent two weeks doing more research.

But eight or nine rewrites later, I’d forgotten the impetus for starting the project at all was a total stargazing moment.

You see, you don’t need to be lying on a boat dock staring up at the night sky to be stargazing.

Stargazing is shorthand for “being captivated by an image.” It’s sort of a paradox—by looking outward you’re really gazing inward.

After gradually emerging from my first depressive episode in ’87, I’d been nosing around at the public library when I came across this image on the cover of a book.

It’s stargazing at its best, brightly lit with mysterious questions: “Who was this person? Why does she look so sad? Where and why was it taken? What’s the story behind the photo?”

Those questions were the beginning of a journey that continued through numerous rewrites over ten years, and finally a public reading of the script with professional actors in 1999.

Some of the happiest days of my life, all due to stargazing.

~ by completelyinthedark on January 24, 2014.

3 Responses to “Stargazing”

  1. u ok?  ……………………………………………………………………………..   a r t i s t m n . c o m ……………………………………………………………………………..


  2. […] just read a rather interesting blog post (Stargazing) that reminded me of one of my favorite […]

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Reblogged this on Completely in the Dark and commented:

    Drafting an all-new post for next Friday, but thinking now of my “triad of favorite things”: daytalking, nightwalking … and stargazing.


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