Tonight, 10:40, barn check. I pull my coveralls over my flannel pajamas and step outside. It is dark, my eyes take a moment to adjust, and then… the stars.

I am no stranger to stars. I grew up in the country, on an island in the middle of the Atlantic, clean air and sharp nights. I witnessed Northern Lights , I heard them too, and I knew the big dipper from the small. But tonight, the constellations seem to carry more weight, a different sort of importance.

Almost 1 week into self-isolation. I think how the stars must look over Italy, where countless people are dying and so many more must be terrified. Are those people looking up and seeing heaven or salvation? I think how they must look over Germany where my friends are locked down and life has screeched to a halt. Are they looking up and seeing freedom? I think about how they look here, where I, a self-proclaimed introvert am feeling the loneliness, and it hasn’t even been quite a week. I look up and imagine connection.

2 planes blip from opposite directions towards the brightness of the North Star. Planes, no doubt, carrying people back to “safety” from vacations gone awry. Planes carrying people who thought they weren’t going to make it home. Planes that represent hope, and ultimately despair. On those planes is there a sense of normalcy, despite the extra cleanings and spacing? Do those people realize that once they land life at home becomes very different from anything they’ve known?

The stars tonight take me back to when my parents could make everything better by just saying that it would be ok. Back to the night when my teenage friends and I lay in the bed of a pickup truck on Signal Hill and watched for Haley’s Comet. Back to the night that I heard the Aurora Borealis, crinkling like crumpled plastic, and wondered if I was hearing aliens.

I don’t know when everything will feel better again, when we can hug and share meals with the people we love, when things will return to normal and the stars will once again be just stars. But tonight the stars connect me to all the people who are suffering, all the people who are frightened, and all the people, like me, who hope. Despite what we’ve done to this planet and despite the severity of the punishment, the stars are still there, beautiful and still. Some people won’t make it to see those stars tomorrow night, some people don’t ever see them. But those of us who do see them give me hope.

The stars have no concept of pandemic. They were there before it happened and they’ll continue to be there long after. As unfamiliar and unmanageable as things are going to get, there is a lot of comfort in those stars. Look up and realize that this is only a moment in a grand scheme that is so much larger. This will pass and when it does the stars will still be there, the same as they always were. And with any luck, so will we.

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