Painting the Night Sky

Painting the Night Sky

Riya Abiram | Art by Alice Lu

Carrie’s dad would often tell her stories about his youth, his eyes wandering to a faraway place as he described the secluded land far away from the noise of man. His family would be sprawled on the overgrown and dewy grass, watching the blue-black skies marred with drops of diamonds as they shifted. It was clear and expansive, moving quickly but seeming eternal. They would drift asleep, the soft glow of the stars mixed in with the deep violet hues of the never-ending heavens, a gentle lullaby. As they woke up, they would watch the shy sun peek through the sky, shining rays of soft gold onto them. The colors that seemed to have lasted forever were replaced with dazzling red and orange shades, the world erupting into ethereal light. The two sides would play tug of war, grudgingly taking halves of the day to express themselves in all their glory. But day after day, Carrie and her father woke up to the spiritless smog of their Brooklyn apartment, the wonder of the night sky fading into a distant fantasy. 

“Hey, Carrie,” he asked one day after staring at the faint glow of the stars from their apartment. “Why don’t we go camping this weekend? Just the two of us.” He smiled at her excitement, remembering when his parents would tell him the same thing. “I’ll teach you about constellations,” he added. Carrie nodded eagerly, as excited as her father to get away from the bustling city.

When they arrived, it was already dusk, the moon’s forces claiming victory over the sun. The sunset canvas that had dazzled the sky moments before was replaced with spots of purple, flaked with silvery moondust. As the world darkened, the last ember of light slowly fading away, the sky stared at them, beaming in all its glory. Carrie carefully took in the scene, not wanting to miss a detail of the evasive forest brimming with hidden life or the ever-expanding skies clear and unaffected by man made creations. The secluded area acted as a haven from the overwhelming and bustling cities that drove away any sign of nature that came by. The sky was quiet yet exuded an otherworldly power that could not be expressed in words. It left room for the music of wildlife that would often peek out of the crevices in the forest to get a glimpse of the emerging beauty.

“Come here, Carrie,” he whispered as if the stars were listening to their conversation. “I want to show you a constellation.” Her eyes followed his finger as he traced out the figure, entranced by the glowing dots lining the skies. “This one,” he said, his arm stretched out, “is called Leo the Lion.” She squinted, trying to make out a shape in the mess of stars.

“I don’t see a lion. It’s just a bunch of dots.” He laughed at her confusion. 

“Well, back when these stars were named, people had nothing better to do than play connect the dots and try to make up something interesting.” She grinned as he tried and failed to explain how the constellation was somehow supposed to look like a lion. Each star in the universe seemed to be watching her, their radiance keeping her warm on a cold night. The scene was mystifying yet familiar, and she couldn’t tear her eyes from it.

Then, out of the corner of her eye, a streak passed through the sky- an artist brushing white accents on his already full canvas. As they continued to fall, Carrie’s father leaned over and whispered, “The stars are seeing how much fun we’re having, and they are falling out of the sky to join us.” Her eyes widened. 

“Really?” she asked, astonished. He put on a serious face and nodded.

“Of course! The stars hate being glued to the sky, watching everything going on but not being able to experience it. This is their chance.” 

That’s unfair, Carrie thought. “How do we help them?” she asked, concern shining in her eyes. Her father looked up at the sky, the luminescence reflecting in his pupils.

“Well, we can continue to watch them as they move every night and make sure their stories aren’t forgotten.” 

The two of them observed the sky as it changed; Carrie determined to follow through on what she had been told. At the same time, she couldn’t help but feel confused. The presence of night was mysterious, a seemingly celestial being appearing itself every night for mere mortal eyes to view. The idea was strange to her. Why did something so phenomenal return when the people observing did not care enough to keep it unobstructed?  Did it enjoy having peering eyes deciphering the codes trapped in its constellations, or was it forced to serve the ungrateful who wash out its beauty with their waste? One thing was apparent: the night sky graced their eyes with its unique beauty every night, an abstract canvas waiting to be understood.