Silence and Stardust

Silence and Stardust

Silence is a valued treasure I still find in my homeland Namibia. Every so often I have to dig a long way in search of this hidden gemstone.

A childhood memory, which I hold dear to my heart as a precious keepsake, is the night scenery on a farm in the “bushveld”. I was spoilt with the luxury of having no access to electricity. Consequently, I was exposed to an extraordinary dark backdrop of night sky. Although the glitter and wink of uncountable stars brought life to my heavenly canopy, I felt a dark hole within me.  A feeling of insignificance dug its way through my whole being until I was overwhelmed by hopelessness.

The lantern of moon smiled thin-lipped down on teeny-weeny me. Prominent stars caught my attention, as they seemed to be attending their premiers. A kite-like constellation, composed of five vividly shining stars,winked at me, as if rejoicing that they were unreachable.  The Milky Way appeared to me like the belt of a ghost like giant.

My eyes would follow the movements of non-stagnant lights above me. I often got lost in following the travelling dots, learning in time that they are satellites. Although man- made spacecraft was attesting to the greatness of the human mind with all its possibilities, troubling thoughts,like: “I am an irrelevant speck of microcosmic dust”, paralyzed me.

Falling stars (meteors) in turn underlined the unsettling fact that I am, like them, a chunk of something much greater and moreover in the process of “burning up”. I was painfully aware of my miniscule place on the stage of an astronomical universe.

The priceless silence would often be interrupted by the piercing howls from the black-backed jackals, echoing from the “mielie” fields. The night was alive with fears, fuelled by the howls of these nocturnal predators. Furthermore, the trills of an orchestra of crickets and the buzz of armies of circling mosquitos turned up the heat of endless summer nights.

I am a child no more. I have outgrown my restricted perception of life’s meaning and my footprints at present leave marks on the Namib Desert. My understanding is still patchy,but the night sky reflects a different message and my vision seems to be clearer. I voluntarily escape from view- blocking concrete and distracting noises into the depths of nothingness.

The Namib Desert ‘s expanse is my place of refuge where I am surrounded by stony hills and sand as far as my eyes can see.The desert breeze blows all the rubble from my mind until the sensation of calmness rushes into my restlessness. My vacuum of emptiness is filled with bliss,flooding into my soul. While the volume is turned down on anxieties and trivial activities, I inevitably hear my heartbeat.

The sun’s warmth worms itself deep into my innards. I let go of inflated self-importance. Thankful that I am not the center of the universe,I sigh with relief. The piercing howls of jackals triumphantly proclaim that peace is found in rest…I feel revived.

Moments later I am enraptured by the extravagant show of the full moon, climbing higher and higher above the waves of dunes until its magnitude reflects pure glory. My eyes migrate from one star constellation to another,while my inner compass navigates me to the Southern Cross,composed of five stars,which form the smallest constellation in the sky…nowadays it makes its debut as a cross. Awestruck,I take a deep breath and contemplate that my life on earth is but a spark.

In turn I am enthralled by the realization that the infinite cosmos is the combined product of indispensable,small matter. I marvel at the beauty of paradox as my hearing zooms into the clicks and squeaks of the endemic Palmato Gecko. A lonely mosquito reminds me of the reality that blood is pumping through my veins.

While I shake off the dune dust, the awareness rises in me that I am alive and valued. The southwest wind sings different tunes and softly I fall into the melody of a new song.

Silence finally has the last word. Truth humbly tugs at my tattered hope and whispers:

“Keep looking up, you are created from precious star substance!”


Brigitte Beyer van Wyk