The Sky Above

My first real job was teaching in the Oberlin College Upward Bound program just after my freshman year of college. It was a summer job that took me years to leave. I came back year after year to teach Math and live in the dorm with some of the most amazing high school students I ever met.

During my second summer there, my sister got a job working for the college food service and she would work in the kitchen serving meals and getting to know the kids. Even better was that that was the summer we first got to know each other better.

Each morning I would get up early, shower and get dressed, and then knock on doors to make sure the students were getting up for breakfast. Then I'd head out to the porch that connected the male and female sides of the dorm. The porch sat in front or the dining room that also connected the two sides.

Jill would usually be out there before me. Sitting on a metal chair either alone or talking to Ambrose Cook. Every morning she'd say hi and then she'd look at the sky and say "isn't the sky so blue today?" Ambrose would roll his eyes. I'd glance at the sky, not really looking, and agree with her non-commitally. It took me years to pause to notice the blue sky and the smells and sights around me. But I never forgot that it was Jill and her daily routine that pointed me in that direction.

Years later when Kim and I were first dating, we had one of those evenings that didn't go particularly well. It was early enough in our relationship that we didn't realize that these blips were no big deal. As we left the house where we'd had dinner I saw the biggest moon that I had ever seen. It was riveting. Kim was already in the car and was about to close the door.

"Get out of the car," I said.

"No," she answered quickly. She thought the evening had gone so badly that I was going to leave her there, miles away from her apartment.

"Get out of the car," I insisted. "You've got to see this moon."

"No," she said again still sure that it was a trick.

I shrugged and stood there looking at the moon as it hung low in the sky and large. It seemed closer than usual and slightly orange. Kim cautiously got out of her seat and stood up. She kept herself positioned in the wedge of the open door and kept one foot inside the car, but she could see the moon.

I still love the night sky. I don't think I can identify or name more than a handful of stars and constellations. I can't pick our nearest neighboring planets out from all the others. I do, however, like being bathed in the beauty and the expanse. I love that as we look up at the sky we're seeing different times represented across the sky. The light from each star originating at a different time from each of the other stars.

On a clear night, when the girls were in the bathroom brushing their teeth, I would stand outside on our upstairs back porch and look up. They would see the porch door open and come out and join me in their pajamas. They would point out the stars they knew from their visits to the planetarium. And then we'd stand quietly together looking at the sky like it was a cosmic campfire until one of them burst with something else she wanted to share.

Yesterday was Maggie's first spring soccer game for this year. Thunderstorms and chilly weather had been forecast but it was a stunning April day in Cleveland. It was warm but not hot. The sun was bright and the sky was blue. We stood with other parents on that beautiful day watching our daughters run and play for an hour and a half. I'm sure I drove other parents nuts as I repeated half to them and half to myself, "what a beautiful day."

Published in: on April 23, 2006 at 7:56 am  Comments (2)  

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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Thank you for your post, Daniel. The summer you describe remains so clear in my mind. It’s one of my fondest memories ever, as is the time we worked together two decades later. About that sky, I still look up. Love, Jill

  2. You just reminded me of when you came to Boulder for the first bootcamp and didn’t want to come in off the deck once the telescope came out… and I’m not sure we’ve had a better view of Saturn since that time!

    You just got me that we haven’t been doing much of that lately. Thanks for the reminder.


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