The stars we are given. The constellations we make. That is to say, stars exist in the cosmos, but constellations are the imaginary lines we draw between them, the readings we give the sky, the stories we tell.
— Rebecca Solnit, Storming the Gates of Paradise: Landscapes for Politics
On a dark night, if I turn out all the lights, I can see the stars from my kitchen window. I know, of course, they are just little bits of light sent from long ago finally hitting my eyes at the same time—a science fact that never ceases to amaze me—but I want them to be more than that. So in that moment, as I look out from my warm, quiet perch in the kitchen, their light becomes part of the ancient map I see behind my eyes. They take up a spot in my brain and are assigned meaning, before I get a chance to remember what they really are. They root me: locating me in my world, in time and space.
We chart all the stars now, making them explain our ideas about science and math and forever, but once upon a time we turned them into constellations shaped like hunting dogs and herdsmen, used them to remember when to plant our seeds or reap the harvest. The stars can tell stories that comfort us while we wait for the world to stop spinning.
We look for and find meaning given only fragments of information. A gesture, a sign, the arrival of a bird is a message from the dead. We see Jesus in a piece of toast. We fall in love with someone because he looks like someone else. Stardust. Our brains make these leaps of logic all the time. We extrapolate. We fill in the blanks. We can’t help it.
I want to draw attention to this primitive seeking: the innate desire to find order, pattern and connection from a montage made up of these little moments. I am watching my characters closely as they age and change. If I illuminate certain details, will I find some truth, an underlying structure, a map, that will give me the story I crave? Or are the visual patterns just that: here a line flows through many images, a colour that continues from frame to frame, forcing a connection where maybe there is none?
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