The first poem I shared on my new blog five years ago was scribbled in the starlight on a moonless night while crossing the Sea of Cortez.
A few months later I received an email from Troy Armstrong, a classical composer who said he had set my poem to music to be performed by a choir. As I listened to the music, tears were streaming down my cheeks, for I knew this is what I would have heard that night had I ears to hear, sailing among the stars.
Poetry, as well as music, has the power to capture that state of wonder we all feel at times when confronting the beauty and majesty of nature, and its power to move us beyond ourselves.
In celebration of National Poetry Month, I’m sharing the original post below with the poem and a link to the music.
Sailing Among the Stars
Last night I swam among the stars. The air and water temperatures were both 78 degrees, so it felt like I was moving from one warm atmosphere into another more dense when I stepped in my pool. There was no moon and the Milky Way was strewn across the sky like scattered bones of light. When I lay on my back to watch them, it felt like I was floating among the stars.
And then I realized–I was! We all are.
We sail across the universe on the back of a tiny planet at the edge of a galaxy that swirls around us. Too often we forget that–how embedded we really are in the universe.
I became acutely aware of this one night when we were crossing the Sea of Cortez from Baja to mainland Mexico. There was no wind, no moon. The sea was perfectly still like the surface of a dark mirror, marred only by our trailing wake.
Above us the bare mast stirred a billion stars, which were reflected in the sea’s surface below. I felt like we were on a starship sailing through the cosmos.
Later that night I wrote this:
Night Crossing, Sea of Cortez
The sea appears so simple
With a dark, indulgent face,
The stars there twice reflected
Like a world spun out of space.
Our sloop shoots through the cosmos,
Through a mute and moonless night,
Our wake a fiery comet
Streaming effervescent light.
With all the universe inert
We slip from star to star,
Then reach across the Milky Way
Toward galaxies afar.
Eons swirl, light-years unfurl
And none can still our flight,
Leaping toward the infinite
To apprehend the light.
I’m not alone in seeing the overlap between the ocean and the night sky. Various artists are fond of depicting whales and dolphins and other sea creatures swimming among the stars. The ocean and the universe stand at the edge of the wild, the last two true frontiers we have to explore, except for the human consciousness, of course. The ocean and the universe have become symbols for consciousness as well as adventure.
We seem to grasp that there is something that connects all three—some deep, dreamy, ever-flowing, ungraspable, powerful yet nurturing element in which we all are steeped. That calls us to move beyond ourselves, beyond the safe and familiar, the already known. That inspires us to reach for something that lies just beyond our grasp.