Friday, October 19, 2012

Star Gazing

Constellations amaze me.  As if creating the universe, with the solar system, the galaxies, and everything in them wasn't enough, God placed beautiful patterns in the night sky for man to visualize, name, and enjoy.  His artistry is unlike any other.  Orion is hands down my favorite constellation.  It is beautiful and easily recognizable.  When I was in college for a brief stint at Emporia State University (as a means to an end at completing my degree--I am a Wildcat at heart), I was required to take a Physics Methods course toward my degree of Elementary Education.  It was not an easy course, and I worked my tail off to get an A in that class.  I don't recall much of what I studied that semester now which is sad because I studied a great deal.  But I will never forget the things I learned about the earth's movement around the sun, the moon's movement around the earth, and the constellations.  The professor of the course was an avid astronomer, so we did a lengthy unit on these topics in this class.  I thrived on learning the material; it utterly captivated me.  I recall thinking that I did not understand people who think God doesn't exist.  How in the world could there be no God when everything around us is literally hanging in such a delicately designed balance?!  It gave me great peace to yet again get a clear message from God that He is the Creator and Designer of it all--the Father of the universe.  My Father.

Orion became my favorite constellation because at the time I was studying this unit in college, it was fall.  With the shorter days that accompany the approach of autumn, Orion had just made its annual reappearance in the early evening sky.  I had never before seen this constellation or ever really heard much about it, other than in the song that I used to love in high school by Prince and Sheena Easton called, "The Arms of Orion" (and I adored Prince AND Sheena Easton in my teen years).   If you don't remember this duet or haven't heard it in years, Google it and give it a hear (or try this link:  http://vimeo.com/23207411).  It is a tender, precious song, and Prince and Sheena sing it beautifully together. Their harmonies are stirring.  I have always loved the sound diversity, texture completion, and overall quality of a male and female voice in duo.  I recall dusting the song off and listening to it while taking this class and learning about Orion.  I found myself loving this gorgeous song all over again and falling in love with Orion, too.  Though the song is written and sung with an absent lover in mind, I recall listening to it with my Lord Jesus in mind.  Upon learning of, "Orion the Hunter," I was wooed by God to envision Him hunting for us all and desiring to shoot us with His arrow of love for Him--and His for us.  The song is really moving either way you choose to view it.

Second only in brightness to, "The Big Dipper," Orion is one constellation that is so easy to find.  It consists of seven major stars and takes up nearly a quadrant of the 180 degrees of sky we are typically able to see at night.  I love that it consists of "seven" major stars since the number, "seven," is an important number, biblically speaking.  It is a number that God uses to represent, "completion," often in His Word (seven days to create the earth and rest from it, hence seven days in a week, and so forth).  Since I am not someone who loves the approach of fall and winter (as I've previously blogged), I guess I also enjoy finding something good about the return of autumn.  I always look forward to seeing Orion for the first time each year.  I just saw it for the first time this fall two evenings ago while out on a date with my hubby.  Every year I shriek with delight upon noticing it.  It always catches me off guard--for some reason I'm never looking for it, and I love the surprise it gives me.  It is clearly distinguishable in the sky, and I especially love it during twilight when the sky has this azure blue color about it.  It's just dreamy.

Orion holds us in its arms throughout fall and winter, and is usually no longer visible due to lengthier daylight in the months of May through September.  So that fall semester, upon taking this Physics course at ESU, I remember going outside many nights, taking my little girl by the hand, and we would check out the moon phases and stars together--namely, Orion.  I would point them out and tell her the names of all the ones I had learned that day, and she'd marveled along with me.  I recall her saying, "Mommy, you are so smart and cool!"  (Boy, I had her fooled)!  I'll also never forget all the evening car rides where she, her daddy, and I would find the various constellations and in some strange and wonderful way, they seemed to be little messages to us from God that He was right there with us, holding us and looking down on us.  We decided that the three stars in Orion's belt represented the three of us--her, her daddy, and me.  To this day, we all think that upon gazing at it.  Allie was really taken by the constellations and the moon phases, and her favorite moon phase was the, "waxing gibbous" phase.  She liked saying, "waxing gibbous," and I can still hear that tiny little voice proudly uttering such a funny sounding word.  I still take pictures of the moon in that phase wherever I am and text them to her with the message, "Thinking of you, doll."  It is just one of many special little bonds we share together.

Since Allie is grown and married, I recently made the pronouncement to our now family of four that though the three stars in Orion's belt will always remind me of the three of us, the four outlying stars in Orion can now symbolize the four of us.  The four outlying stars actually represent Orion's shoulders and feet.  That seems perfect since Allie and I lean and stand on the shoulders of our husbands.  Now I have just another reason to love Orion.

To give you a little more information on Orion, the seven stars names are as follows (position descriptions are based from our view of it, so "left foot" represents Orion's actual right foot):

"Mintaka"--right star in Orion's belt (Matt), meaning, "belt of the central one."
"Alnilam"--middle star in Orion's belt (me), meaning, "string or belt of pearls."
"Alnitak"--left star in Orion's belt (Allie), meaning, "lower end of the girdle."
"Betelgeuse"--Orion's left shoulder (Matt), meaning, "armpit of the central one."
"Saiph"--Orion's left foot (me), meaning, "sword of the giant."
"Bellatrix"--Orion's right shoulder (my son-in-law, Kale), meaning, "warrior."
"Rigel"--Orion's right foot (Allie), meaning, "left foot or leg of the giant," (technically this star is Orion's left foot, but is viewed as his right foot from our perspective).  This star is the brightest of the seven stars that makeup Orion.

I think it is appropriate that the left star in Orion's belt, "Alnitak," stands for my daughter, Allie, since we call her, "Al," quite often, and since it means, "lower end."  In our family, Allie is the, "low man on the totem pole," so to speak, with regard to order of command.  (Sorry, Al!  At least you get to be the brightest shining star in the constellation, "Rigel")!  I also love that Matt's belted star, "Mintaka," starts with an, "M," like his name and means, "belt of the central one."  The star, "Betelgeuse," is the second brightest star in the constellation and means, "the Armpit of the Central One."  My husband is not an armpit (just want to clarify that, Babe), but since he is the, "central one," of our family, those stars fit him well.  My footed star, "Saiph," starts with an "S" like my name and sounds a bit like, "Steph."  Its meaning, "Sword of the Giant," is also appropriate to me since I love reading my Father's Word (the Bible is often called our, "Sword").  I think that, "Alnilam," my belted star, sounds like "Al's mom," and since I love pearls, it also suits me well.  Since I always have to sit in the middle of Matt and Allie, my star being the middle star was the obvious choice for me.  Due to the fact that my son-in-law, Kale, is quite a comedian and keeps us all laughing, "Bellatrix," which sounds like a "trick"-ster, suits him.  Kale is red-headed, tall, and skinny like Conan O'Brien, and is just about as funny and witty!  The real meaning of his star, "warrior," suits him, as well.  He stands for Christ in his life, and certainly shields and protects our little girl in many great ways.  The best part about all these fun, fitting tidbits is that I only just found them out, long after having declared whose stars were whose.  Kind of a neat little gift from God yet again.

I am not the only moon and star-gazer in our family. My mom-in-law, Loretta, loves the night sky as I do, and she has always said that whenever there is a full moon, we kids can all know that she is thinking of us and that she loves us very much.  I have always adored her gentle, precious reminders of this fact, and we always think about her when a full moon glows its beautiful light upon us.

Based on Greek mythology, "Orion the Hunter," stands in the sky with two dogs as his companions (the constellations of Canis Major and Canis Minor).  He is situated by a river called, "Eridanus," and together with his loyal dogs, Orion hunts various other celestial creatures in the night sky, such as, "Lepus," the rabbit, and, "Taurus," the bull.  According to the legend, Orion was in love with, "Merope," one of Seven Sisters who form, "Pleiades."  But she wouldn't love Orion back.  Then Orion lost his life when he stepped on a scorpion ("Scorpius").  Since the gods felt sorry for Orion for his unrequited love, bad luck, and lost life, they placed him and his beloved pooches forever in the sky for all to gaze upon with delight.  They also placed many animals near him for his hunting pleasure.  "Scorpius" was placed on the opposite side of the sky so Orion would never be harmed again by it.

Upon learning about Orion, I viewed him as, "God the Hunter," as I previously remarked.  It is fitting to imagine God as, "Orion," because just as Orion lived through the pain of unrequited love and rejection, God has also faced this with a world that for the most part chooses to ignore Him and reject Him.  I also love that Orion hunts for, "Taurus."  I do not believe in astrology and am not into it at all, but since I am technically a, "Taurus," that is yet another special correlation I have enjoyed imagining about this constellation.  I know God hunted for me, and that He shot me with his arrow of belief and love for Him.  Based upon his birthday, my husband, Matt, holds the sign of, "Sagittarius," which means, "the archer."  So I also like viewing Orion as my husband, Matt, who hunted for me and shot me with his arrow of love, as well!  I am blessed to be his prey and capture, and even more blessed to be God's. 

The Prince and Sheena Easton song that I mentioned above says at one point in the song, "I've been searching for a lover in the sea of tranquility."  This is so perfect since the constellation, "Orion," stands beside a river.  God also resides beside a glassy sea, and like Orion, He is also searching and hunting for those who will love Him back.  One day, I too, will stand beside that glassy sea, in utter tranquility, and be with the Hunter and Lover of my soul.  Though we are worlds apart now, Christ lives in me and He will capture me once and for all one day soon.
 
Isaiah 40:26 (NASB), "Lift up your eyes on high and see Who has created these stars, the One Who leads forth their host by number, He calls them all by name; because of the greatness of His might and the strength of His power, not one of them is missing."

The following image is taken from Wikipedia, but is accurate.

File:Orion IAU.svg