Etymologies aren’t meanings, but as histories of word formation, they make visible how a given word, or part of one, was used at a certain time by a group of people speaking a shared language.
On Friday nights around midnight in college, I would hug my knees at the base of the grassy semicircle and listen as terrible dance music poured from the Greek houses. I would look up at the constellations of Olympian exploits and accomplishments, bright without light pollution in the small college town, and wish that the astronomy class I had registered for was about the relationships between the stars.
Maybe it was the fictitious sophomore slump, maybe it was the flat realization that none of the old identity markers held weight in the vastness of the universe. I began opting out of the dining hall with a frequency that was noticeable.
More than a decade later, I left the city for a few months to live in the redwoods and look at the stars. I posted online in a shared space that I was feeling a bit down, and my close friends knew what that meant in this social steganography we do now. There were many instances of their kindness. My favorite one arrived in a thin cardboard box. The calligraphy on the certificate inside proclaimed there was now a star near the constellation of Cygnus (the Swan) with my name in an international star registry vault.
I hugged my knees at the base of the redwoods all that summer. I played a game with my personal calendar I called Sidereal where I only had to make it to the next week, when the constellations would have shifted slightly above me, and then just to the week after that.
There are still Friday midnights when I hug my knees, sitting on the fire escape and listening to terrible dance music pour out of neighbors’ apartments. But then I remember that there is a star with my name on it, and there are debts of kindness to be paid, and I get back to work.
A few more days
A final Hi meeting
The local neighborhood bar has a quiet time between six and nine. It is a place that specializes in coffee, beer and seasonal menus. There is just enough of each for a satisfying snack and effective buzz. After the time when the laptop lids close and before the social gatherings start -- there is a sort of twilight*. Often this time is a fugitive ground rife with creative inspiration and meditative work -- of the kind that results in personal reward.*twilight may refer to civil, nautical or astronomical variety depending on your social or terrestrial condition
A man positions his mouse on the edge of his browser window. He clicks, holds and drags the viewport first left then right. The content of a video game promo micro site responds and adapts to the available space. To the man, this is more delightful than the game itself.
A man laboriously moves his piano down three levels onto the subway platform. Classic vocals and strided chords -- he played so well I swore he was blind. Oblivious to the heat on that August stage, he was most in touch with his audience -- whom he elevated with his music.
A woman should do exactly as she pleases no matter what a man may think.
As the Dalai Lama once said, "It is a time when there is much in the window, but nothing in the room."
"No one understands me," she said. Her grandmother was silent for a minute. It seemed she was searching for an answer in the star speckled sky. "But no one understands anyone in this world, darling. We are all unique. It is what gives us a sense of wonder."