When we want to sound deep, we look to the sky. We’re always looking up and contemplating these lights people have marveled at for thousands of years. Rightfully so—I mean, have you ever seen the sky? The giant, color-changing canopy hanging over our heads that puts on light shows for us day and night? In reality, it’s just fluffy-looking water droplets and celestial objects that are so far away, so why do we feel this deeper connection to it?
I think it’s the perceived distance. All of that going on up there is a good reminder that there’s so much beyond our tiny planet—the same planet that I’ve lived on for only a minuscule fraction of its existence. “Earth” is one of the most local ways I can pinpoint my physical “home,” But just about everybody can say that.
I’ve personally struggled to define home. The town I live in changes so often that I’m never able to establish a connection to any one place, so I’ve accepted that home isn’t purely physical. However, I didn’t expect to find home beyond Earth.
I remember when my family and I would head out into the chilly night to point out the stars above and name the constellations. I couldn’t remember all their names, but for some reason, I remember what I thought was the easiest to locate—Orion. All the other constellations seemed to me like random clusters of stars. But Orion had some sort of symmetry; something about it just made sense. And as I understood it, stars were constant and forever.
Do Orion’s stars know that they’re grouped together like this? I’ll take a wild guess and say probably not. I’m aware that I'm personifying celestial objects hundreds of light-years away from me, but they have allowed me to have a sense of constancy I can cling to when the only thing constant in my world has been change itself.
Often, I lose that sense of consistency the stars provide, especially when I recently moved for college and soon realized that city lights make stargazing near impossible. But if it weren’t for this drastic move, I wouldn’t have been able to expand my meaning of home beyond the stars. After all, I can’t see them during the day and the light pollution makes them virtually invisible at night, so I needed to find something else. And now I see that who’s here with me on the ground are home. Home is in people, in snapshots in time, in memories, in moments I can’t relive but ones that are etched into my brain for life. That’s not where I feel at home, but how.
As for the stars, I don’t believe home is about the physical objects themselves; it's how I feel when I see them. Looking up brings me back to those winter nights, captivated by the twinkling mess of glitter up above. I’m brought back to being bundled up and cozy and warm and feeling the warmth of my family around me despite the icy air and frosted grass beneath our feet. And in that moment, I’m home.
Fast-forward to a more recent version of myself as I’m traveling during the night to meet my family for the holidays. The semester, which had just wrapped up that day, had turned out to be the most intense, frantic, confusing, eye-opening time of my life. My mind is everywhere and nowhere at once. I feel each time the plane shakes, so I look out the window in an attempt to take my mind off of it. I realize that I’m sitting right next to the wing and without thinking, my eyes follow its line pointing out into space. And right at its end, Orion sits. The plane still shakes, but Orion is still. Those distant, distant stars, watching silently from so many light-years away, reassure me that everything will be alright.