Story & photos by Montana Jones
Be present. Live in the moment. Be here now… I know, I know and I do, or rather I try.
There is a tendency though, to forever look forward to the future. When I focus onward and upward, I find myself literally gazing ahead to where the earth meets the sky, looking for answers in sunsets and rainbows, northern lights and shooting stars.
I always preached light and love to my mother, intent on helping her shed the pessimistic wings I grew up under, until I finally came to understand that was just who she was. She didn’t want to be happy. Or didn’t know how. She didn’t want to be here period, let alone be here now.
I’ve grown along an opposite path, keenly savouring every moment of mine, squeezing meaning out of each fragment of time. There was a reason for everything… and I had nothing but questions.
Seemed that many of life’s questions were answered, or at least entertained, when offered up to the heavens.
I live in the country on a farm with much earth, and even more sky. Friends come up to breathe in the air and renew their city selves. Last November they all descended to watch the annual display of Leonid meteorite showers.
Leo the lion is an easy constellation to spot; it has a characteristic question-mark shape punctuated by the bright star Regulus. The tails of all Leonid meteors, no matter where they appear, seem to stream back toward that one point—the radiant in Leo.
We lit a bonfire and settled in for a few hours of serious enlightenment, with red wine, tortillas and hot bowls of chili in our laps, sitting around the blaze and spread out on blanketed fields, all eyes on the glorious fires in the sky. With each little wisp of streaking reddish light, wondrous little ooh’s and aah’s escaped our lips.
I lay out open to that seductive sky and marvelled at the blushing coloured tails of the lionstars, flicking out steady streams of powered light.
Then a huge meteorite scratched a silver gash in the sky’s lining, and dissolved before it ever really existed. That burst of catlight pounced on my chest, and pulled me by my breath up into a dark heaven.
I thought how my mother would never know this. She missed so much of life, cautiously guarding against any potentially good experience from leaking in. I thought how she never, ever looked up. Never had her eyes on.
If I had tried to tell her about it, she’d likely shut her eyes in protest, blocking out any images of ghosted trailing fireballs. She wouldn’t want to hear about anything resembling illumination.
A month later my mother died very suddenly. We weren’t finished—I wasn’t finished—but still she went. I got to her first…found her in the room at the end of the world’s longest hospital corridor, the one with the door shut. My hand on her face gently closed her eyes for her, when she no longer could. I kissed her cold cheek, and sat with her even colder hand clasped in mine, offering thoughts through the timelessness that stayed on in the room with us.
After sharing days of immobilized disbelief, I finally left my Dad in their hollow house. I drove home along a dark winding highway, asphalt arching out before me, marking miles in an ever-asking question.
The night sky was aglow with brilliant blue and pink northern lights as the veiled light rippled like tinted gauze, in a circle of electric colour.
I’m not sure it was an answer, but it was then that I began the slow climb of understanding there may not always be one.