Up on the airplane

I was humming this song this morning. Couldn't possibly have anything to do with Sunday's trip:

up on the airplane
nearer my god to thee
i start making a deal
inspired by gravity
   - indigo girls

I was daydreaming while sitting, stopped, at a red light during my lunch break, looking into the vast expanse of sky. I was enjoying the only slightly hazy blue of the sky. From my memory, the D.C. area is a bit smoggy.

I pondered the sky and thought of the stars, and how when I go places, I catch myself looking at the sky and using the stars to visually orient myself. How unusual it must be, I thought, to switch sides of the equator and lose those friends, those stars, you have come to look upon as faithful companions.

From the first time I got glasses that corrected my distance vision, I've been fascinated by the stars. I know a few constellations, but not all of them. I know that most people immediately look for the Big Dipper, but I've never had quite the fascination with it that many people have.

'My' constellation has always been Orion. The great hunter is almost always the first thing I find when I look into the sky; that familiar, almost Transformer-like boxiness, the three faint stars of the belt. When I was younger I fancied him my guardian and good-luck charm. Back in high school, when I visited friends up in northeast Arkansas, which was almost always in wintertime, Orion always seemed to be hanging low, almost over my car, when I threw my bags in the car and prepared to return home.

Mariners used the polestar to find their way. Very few of the places I go now require the use of a compass to keep me on the right track, yet I find myself looking skyward, sighting my old friend, and feeling the comfort of knowing that relatively speaking, I'm not too far from where I'm going.