December 24, 2011
The best time to see Orion’s belt from the Northern hemisphere is now. Late fall and winter. Every year.
But you have to go outside to see it. You have to leave the camaraderie of candle lit table and picked over dishes of cooling duck, wild rice, roasted vegetables. You have to leave the comfort of laughter and mingling conversations over coffee and Norwegian sugar cookies as everyone waits to see which package belongs to them, what is in it.
I wait to give my gifts.
I am not an outsider here anymore. But is the first time I have met Stephie’s boyfriend Zach’s family—at least all together. I am overwhelmed, retreat to my womb, the kitchen. This is where I comfort and create. I sighed as my hands slipped into hot sudsy dishwater. I held onto a stack of dirty plates, felt the weight of them pull my biceps.
Steve came in. “Whatcha doin’ in here bayyybeee?” He is full of “Christmas cheer”.
“I thought I’d do the dishes.” The plates rested on the bottom of the sink now. I lifted my hands, searched for a sponge a rag..
“You don’t have to do that”. He told me.
“I want to.” I answered.
“I’ll help.” Steve grabbed a dishtowel. “Okay. You wash, I rinse and dry.”
Zach’s dad turned on the electric organ in the living room. Full blast. The floor vibrates with sound. Four or five people are pushing sound effect buttons while someone pounds out multiple notes in no particular order.
Was it one steel guitar or two joining in? I could not tell, as I stood there paralyzed in a cataclysm of sound.
“I’ll get your coat,” Steve said. “Now would be a good time to go look at all the Christmas lights in the neighborhood.”
I nodded my head yes.
Steve grabbed me firmly by my upper arms, kissed me on the forehead. “You wait right here.”
In the cold, wet air, I caught my breath. Two houses down, an older gentleman—a grandfather, a father, a brother (I did not ask and do not know)--stood drinking a cup of something hot. I could see the steam spiraling from the cup. He was looking up at an inky star studded sky.
On a plaid folded blanket, on the lawn, a young girl of 12 or 13 sat. Her head tilted back. She too was scanning the sky, trying to find exactly the star the man was pointing to.
I stopped. Looked up. Tried to see if I could figure out what the man was pointing at. I could not.
“Why are we stopping?” Steve asked.
“I don’t know.” I answered. “There is something in the sky.”
I was jealous. Jealous of this moment this man was having with this young girl on a starlit Christmas Eve night.
I interjected myself.
I want to say curiosity got the best of me. That is how I will tell the story to everyone else. But you, you know the truth, don’t you? And the truth was I wanted to become part of their moment.
As we approached the man and girl I said--with a perfect mix of tentativeness and tenacity, “Excuse me.”
The man and the girl looked at me, questions in their eyes. Before they could fully form them, I asked “What are you looking at?”
“Orion’s Belt.” The young girl said, turning her attention back to the sky.
“Orion’s Belt?” I asked.
“Yes. Those three bright stars make up Orion’s Belt.” I followed the length of his arm to the point of his index finger, caught a glimpse of what he was showing me.
“Thank you.” I said.
“See? Right there.” He continued. “One, two, three.”
One, two, three. Alnitaka, Mintaka and Alnilam. Orion’s Belt.
“Darn—wait.” He said. “In a minute you’ll be able to see all three again.” A cloud was passing over Alnilam. “That will pass over in a minute. Those clouds have been passing over the belt all night.”
Trusting in something bigger, more predictable than me, trusting this stranger’s knowledge, and trusting Steve, whose hand was holding mine, I stood, eyes focused, scanning for bright constellations, a bright star. A guide. To lead me through this night. This night of a thousand memories of you.
I quietly left after I located Orion’s Belt. I felt as if I had stolen into enough of moments from this man and young girl. To stay any longer would have been an intrusion.
But if I had stayed longer, he might have pointed out Osiris. I saw Osiris then, although I did not know that was what I was seeing at the time.
Osiris."Osiris's coming was announced by Three Wise Men: the three stars Mintaka, Anilam, and Alnitak in the belt of Orion, which point directly to Osiris's star in the east, Sirius (Sothis), significator of his birth."
Barbara Walker, The Women's Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets (749)"So this was the harbinger of the annual inundation of the Nile through her appearance with the rising sun at the time when the inundation was due to begin. The bright star would therefore naturally become, together with the conjoined constellation of Orion, the sign and symbol of new vegetation which the Year then beginning would infallibly bring with it."
Dr. John Gwyn Griffiths, The Origins of Osiris and His Cult (157)
The sign and symbol of new blah blah blah which the Year then beginning would infallibly bring with it.
The sign and symbol of new.
bring with it.
Osiris was an Egyptian God. The God of afterlife, the underworld, the dead.
The appearance of Osiris is associated with the cycles observed in nature. Osiris brought the hope of new life after death.
New life after death.
That is my gift to myself this year at Christmas. Permission to live and grieve at the same time. To find the balance, if there is one.
In this I learn what I always tried to teach you—the greatest gift is always in the giving.
Peace is a gift I can only get if I give it to myself.
It was a gift I always wanted for you.
The streets are quiet. All but a few are where they are going to be tonight, Christmas Eve. Steve and I have the sidewalks, the lawn of the Capital to ourselves. We stop, jointly critique each home’s display for its balance and aesthetic qualities or unbridled tackiness. We admire Christmas trees, backlit by living rooms filled with friends and family and crazy relatives.
Standing on the sidewalk with my hand in Steve’s, I would not trade places with any of them.
Back at Stephie’s the 20-30 year olds are out smoking cigarettes and visiting on the front porch.
“Are we holding up the present unwrapping?” Steve asks.
“Nope.” Zach answers. “Let’s do that now.”
I have already given and received my present.
Tonight I saw Osiris.
Tonight I see a new life after a death.
Tonight I take unbridled joy from the greatest gift of all—the giving.
Merry Christmas Andie