This is the red–spotted purple, Limenitis arthemis astyanax we saw while picking yet more blackberries this evening. It was good to get out and wallow in nature, even though we had to watch out for the thorns. I am on hiatus after finishing my latest manuscript, a work of magical realism I am calling Southern Cross. I have become fascinated with the phenomenon of the Southern hemisphere, jealous of my friends in Australia whose evening vista includes the four stars, Mamosa, Gacrux, Delta Crucis, and Acrux, creating a virtual intersection in the sky. I found out I possibly could have seen it from Mexico where I spent some time when I was in my Twenties. No matter the technology that pervades my life, the night sky still takes my breath. When we first moved into our house on two acres, Jess and I sat on our new front porch and watched three green meteorites fly across the sky to the East. We soon formed a habit of staying up late, sitting on the back porch watching the summer skies for falling stars, and we were often rewarded. It seemed the more we watched, the more we saw moving around the galaxy.
In Southern Cross, a priest assembles a group of people, each of whom are desperate for answers to complex problems, and takes them to a mountain top monastery near Lake Titicaca in Peru to find a horizon. The ancients believed their lives were guided by the stars, and signs in the heavens often heralded times of great importance. Most of us know about the Star of Bethlehem, a strange convergence like the recent alignment in the western sky of Venus and Jupiter giving off the illusion that they had “collided,” and formed a mega-star. A falling star coincided with the birth of Tecumseh the Iroquois Indian leader and the Earthquake of 1811 years later, when Tecumseh predicted the War of 1812, saying an earthquake would happen “in the place where I set my foot.” Legend holds that he set his foot at the spot where the Mississippi ran backward, forming Reelfoot Lake in W. Tennessee. Experts claim this earthquake may have registered a 9.0 on the Richter scale (had one been handy) as tremors were felt as far off as Maine while the epicenter was located near Cape Girardeau, Missouri, on the banks of the Big River.
There are worlds billions of years in the making, light coming to us for millions of years and finally reaching us in our back yards as twilight falls, the fireflies come up, the mist settles on the fields, and the first stars peep out of the black fabric. I worry sometimes that in the 21st Century, everyone is reaching into a haloed pseudo-world of touch-sensitive screens and losing touch with the authentic world beating to the rhythm of the human pulse. I hope as July 4th invites us out to watch the night sky for fireworks displays, we will take time to watch the night skies for signs of life on our own horizon. Might be the ancients were right, and there is more to read there than we have believed.