Mansfield Fox

Law student. Yankees fan. Massive fraggle. Just living the American dream.

Sunday, December 19, 2004

When All Other Lights Go Out

Many people have favorite things - favorite books, favorite movies, favorite foods, favorite saints, favorite seasons. I have none of these things. There are lots of things I like, of course, that I prefer to the general run of things of their ilk. But I'm never able to pick one and say, "this is my favorite". I try sometimes, and get close, but invariably wind up talking my way into the virtues of its rivals, to the ruin of the whole project. I like to think it's my generous spirit, but, in truth, it's probably just my indecisiveness.

I do have one favorite, though. A favorite star.

It's Sirius, the Dog Star.

I know, I know: picking the brightest star is terribly unoriginal, horrendously obvious. And yet, there you have it. You have to understand, you see, that I've lived almost my entire life in places plagued by overcast nights and dreadful light pollution. (I can probably count on two hands the number of truly starry nights I've had.) Sirius, as the brightest, is always visible. Of all the stars that do battle with the gloom of a New England sky, it is the last to succumb. Polaris is renowned for its constancy, which is doubtless merited from a nautical perspective. I am more impressed, however, by the fidelity of the Dog Star. In a world of change and decay, it remains. It comes, too, just when it's needed: in the winter, when the days are grown short and men somber.

One night in college, in the dead of winter, I was walking back to my home, through the snow, at about 4am. The newspaper had just been put to bed after a marathon copy-editing session. It was cold, and I was exhausted, and as I crunched around in the snow I was watching the stars. And I saw Sirius, though I didn't know it by name then. As it shimmered, it gave off the most beautiful array of colors: blue, red, green. And then colors I didn't recognize: new colors, unknown to Earth, the radiance of the heavens, distilled. It was nothing, I know: just a trick played on my mind by exhaustion and the onset of hypothermia. But it was beautiful.

I'm sure my fondness for this star is a pagan instinct that I ought to suppress. But I find I cannot.