'We are such stuff
As dreams are made on, and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep.'
- William Shakespeare, The Tempest (IV.i.148–158)
Tonight I do not want to sleep; I’d rather stay up late. Find a windowsill to sit on with a blanket, a book, and wait. If you will stay awake with me, to that darkest point at the end, I promise you will be rewarded with the most magical sight.
In those shy hours before dawn, a hundred kilometers overhead, the night sky will be studded with a million shooting stars.
The Eta Aquarids are not really stars; they only appear to be. This meteor shower is just a stream of ionized comet debris. But let us make wishes anyway, on these trails of combusting gas. When morning comes they will be gone, and some day, so will we.
Our world, and we, were born of stars, a very long time ago. Of hydrogen, a little helium, and really not much else. In a process called nucleosynthesis, or magic if you prefer, stars made carbon, nitrogen, and oxygen, iron and sulfur. The elements that would shape our solar system, our planet, our lovers and friends. Our hearts, our freckles, our eyelashes. The origins of organic life.
The stars grew heavier, larger, brighter, till they finally burst in the sky. The supernovas released atoms like fireworks, the universe rained with cosmic dust. Creating every sun, planet, galaxy, every form of life there is. Imagine the explosion, that magnificent sight.
‘We have calcium in our bones, iron in our veins,
Carbon in our souls, and nitrogen in our brains.
93 percent stardust, with souls made of flames,
We are all just stars that have people names.’
- Nikita Gill, 93 percent stardust
Our world is made of pixie dust; J.M. Barrie was right. Our lives, our nights, our happy afternoons exist, because stars die.
In 1888, Vincent Van Gogh lost his only friend, and cut off his left ear. He was struggling with severe depression, and his life was unraveling. He admitted himself soon after into the Saint Paul asylum, in Saint Rémy de Provence, where from the iron-barred window of his room, he painted a starry sky.
A crescent moon on the far right, the morning star on the left, ‘hues of the most intense violets, blues and greens.’ Lemon yellow, pink, and blue forget-me-nots, bright orbs in concentric circles of swirling radiant light.
‘Why […] should the spots of light in the firmament be less accessible to us than the black spots on the map of France? Just as we take the train to go to Tarascon or Rouen, we take death to go to a star.'
All worlds eventually come to an end. Even, especially ours. Van Gogh left his with an explosion of color, in a sky no one had never seen.
Some say the world will end in fire, others claim it will be ice. I hope it ends in a meteor shower, on a starry night.