Reflections upon Reflections

NB: A backlogged post from reflections prior to entering college. Written with a strong tone of Pirsig and an aftertaste of coffee. Enjoy.

Crystalline smooth surfaces have me staring at my face, even as I seek to gaze below the surface of the tranquil pond. The quiet of dawn, the inner peace found through nature, surrounds and calms me through and through. These past two weeks, I have been reflecting upon my past high school life, seeking to divine what the future has in store. But tonight, with the Perseids lighting up the sky, I reflect with peace and serenity.

Seattleites sure love talking about the weather, but it’s not hard to see why. The abruptness of a summer storm with dark beauty in its thundering clouds, sweeps over the region and raises petrichor from the ground. As the hail beats the dry caked ground, I look up in vain at the morose skies. Every astronomical event has been ruined by the glum Seattle atmosphere, every blood moon and meteor sighting. Now, just days away till I leave for a new haven, the clouds would block me out once more for the Perseids, a spectacular meteor shower made all-the-more better with the new moon. No matter. I would stay through the darkness, praying to catch a glimpse regardless of what I see right now.

Around 11, I get a message from David. “Hey did the meteor shower end?” he asks, just as I’m about to settle for a quick nap. “Not yet- hasn’t even started haha” I type back, hoping that he would be able to stay up and see these shooting stars. In a few more lines, my eyes widen. David is at Mount Rainier tonight, which is not only the most magnificently round dumpling in the Washington forests, but also the best dark sky area in the Pacific Northwest. Although jealous, I quickly guide him to the location of a star party at the Sunrise Visitor Center, hoping that he could get to witness this amazing experience. After all, that’s all I can do for all of my friends. All of us at Interlake have been together for such a long time that I have nothing but goodwill for each one of them as they journey forwards. I believe that Interlake doesn’t have the cutthroat competition that may be found in other top notch schools because we are all so intertwined in the stories that we have and the goals in our future. Now, as we scatter like dust upon the wind, I can no longer hold on to their comfort. But. I can always rely on them to surprise and cheer me up, in thousands of minute ways in the future.

I nap, trying to desperately charge my own batteries, but as 2 am swings by, I leap outwards. armed with sky charts and blankets, the inky black skies seem to invite me outwards with a gentle rustle and nip. The gloomy clouds have begun to clear up to become a truly beautiful night, the rare combination of new moon and clear skies. Perhaps the best that Seattle can ever get to. In a spur-of-the-moment decision, I drag out my telescope onto the driveway along with the armchair and hot tea. Might as well bring out the big guns! But as I lug the giant polished mirror, too awkward for a single person, I struggle and think of the difficulties ahead. In a few short days, I will be on my own, without any loving parent to assist me. As I painfully piece together the assembly in the dark, I think of how there have always been gentle hands guiding me in the past. And as I discover, to my great dismay, that I am now missing a small but crucial adaptor, I am reminded of the care that mom and dad always had when things didn’t succeed. I sigh, and slowly disassemble and lug each part back. This will just be a calm observational night, no fancy pictures.

I kick back into my lawn chair, strategically placed to block out streetlights with the. It is 2:45, and I calm myself down in a half meditative way. Sky watching is a whole lot like fishing- you never really know where the next meteor will come from, so all you can do is to get a feel for it. You sit and stare and try not to strain your eyes in any particular direction, because you know that while the center of your eyes are good for color detection, it’s the sides that are important now for bright streaks. Sitting still and not falling asleep in the dark, I elect for a period of silence.

Truly, I had done so much reflecting over the past summer. From family in China to friends in the US, every exchange is markedly predictable. Am I ready? Am I excited? And yet, even after answering these personal questions nearly by rote, I’m still not sure where my heart resides. There is just a small hiccup, where my perceptions of the world just mismatches with its reality. And so, quiet reflection has brought up those emotions bubbling to the surface once more. They rise and set continuously, of confusion and adrenaline, of anxiety and peace. Before long, I realize that they are all two faces of the same coin. Or are they the same face of two coins? Does it matter?

Slowly, lazily drifting, a speck of light moves across my field of vision, bringing me out of my stupor. It’s far too fast for any plane or star, but several magnitudes slower than any shooting star. I watch it with amazement as this dot represents a miracle in engineering. Humans have sent so many satellites into orbit that Low Earth Orbit is as crowded as I-405, but I am reminded of the first satellite. As Spurnik slowly pinged across the world, families looked up in amazement, as a bit of humanity, a bit of us, has joined the heavens above. The satellite- I think it’s the ISS judging from its speed and size- moves with purpose but deliberation. Each part of the behemoth structure knows what must be done to further humanity’s probes into the unknown. I can only hope that I can follow such an example. Would I be able to have that kind of nonstop attitude, even as the fire dies down? Could I be a consistently hardworking student? Most importantly, could I do good (not well)?

Without warning, a flash catches my eye. The first meteor of the night- a baby, lasting just a second. While small, the intensity startles me. In usual stargazing sessions, one never gets these beautiful streaks. This is because it’s only after midnight that the majority of meteors are visible, as the earth finally faces in the right direction. This was worth the wait.

Soon, another. And another. And yet another. They fall, not as plentiful as rain, but just sparse enough to make each one a treasure of its own. Each one has a different characteristic- some streak across the span of several constellations, while others are more like an Iridium flare than a comet. If only we could view our own lives as short as a shooting star- but in the grand scale, we occupy a far shorter fraction of time. Looking up, I see that there is no shooting star that is markedly better than another. Each brings a different type of joy, a different type of sweetness. But every one of them shines bright. Oh, so bright.

As my natural eyes wander from constellation, I also have a digital eye watching, ready to capture. 3 am and I stir from the chair, ready to set it up for some star trails. Because as the Earth turns, the fixed stars stand still, calmly pointing humanity forwards. Yet, we have the audacity to believe that we are fixed and they move. In a star trail, a time lapse is taken over the course of hours, and frame by frame, an outline emerges. It is a view that can only be gained with the progression of time. A capture of both time and space in one single compiled photo. It is beautiful. Some things cannot be seen in the moment; they take time to build and build, each step infinitesimally small but ultimately creating an incredible product. It’s been said that true genius is recognize potential in a seed, but I believe it is true wisdom to patiently nurture that seed into a great tree. Nothing can beat time- to heal, to mature, to grow.

All will come in due time.

The hour hand ticks past four, and a rustle emerges from the house. A bushy head of hair pops out the front door, squinting in the darkness. My dad, with his superb sleep schedule that better fits small islands in the Atlantic Ocean than Seattle, wakes up and checks on me. In another 10 minutes, he is bundled up too, coming out to this rare and beautiful night to gaze with me. We sit in silence, with interspersed oos and ahs as streaks pass by. There is no need for talk; enough is said in the silence. This is the man who has raised me, seen me through the good and the bad. No need for small talk here.

What more is to be said to someone who had heard it all? Leaving friends is sad; leaving family is impossible. No matter how much bickering will ever exist, their blood runs through my veins, hot and heavy. Wherever I go, their influence carried me along, making me think harder, push farther, and love deeper. My first teachers, counselors, and friends, my family is always here for me. And now I must leave them.

We stay up far later than we should, late enough to see the rising of a deep winter constellation in mid Fall. Orion rises from the East, chasing after those mystical creatures, on the eternal chase of the gods. His jeweled belt was the first I ever recognized, as a young and impressionable kid in Knoxville. That first memory, of finally looking up and just seeing it’s shape, has always stayed with me. There is not a sensation more powerful than the first time you feel the infinite vastness of the universe before your eyes, and here it comes again. This mythos had carried me far beyond my imagination. I give chase after their secrets, and in return, they provide infinite more questions to ponder.

But the rise of Orion is simultaneous with the rise of a star far better known. It is 5AM, and our sun starts to make its way up. There is much time before the orb of light and life peaks above the horizon, but already, it’s effects can be seen. The dimmest stars of Perseus and Auriga fade, so slowly that I doubt the integrity of my own eyes at first. But there is no stopping it. We do not doubt the rise of the sun for two reasons: it has risen a million times before, and that out science has shown the existence of a ball of fire that our little rock slowly revolves and rotates around. My educational training will bring me to more explanations of the latter variety, but I take solace in the former. This is how it has been done for millennia; this is how it will be done for millennia more.

The bleaching of the sky wipes the stars out one by one, slowly at first, then all at once until only the brightest remain. The night has ended with the might of the sun, but that’s alright too. A new day brings different challenges, not better or worse. Just different. There will always be another dusk to return to the memories of the night; there will always be another dawn to bring back light. Is my departure the sunset of one journey, or the sunrise of another? But that’s just semantics. My heart is at peace- and that is enough.

Just as I head in, one more flash surprises me. An ambitious shooting star has raced against the sun, and won. It was the longest streak I had seen all night- brilliant and proud, the meteor refuses to go quietly into the night. It will be seen; it will be!

This night etches itself into my memory with the sharpness of an Exacto knife. It cuts in with emotion and reality, commanding me to live life. All my reflections are in the skies above; all the heavens are mirrored in my thoughts. As long as there are stars in the sky and wonder in my heart, I will be fine.

I will live.
I will love.
I will reflect.

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