Composite image taken from NASA's Hubble Space Telescope
- found at National Geographic's space photo galleries
My stardust moment was in 1976 at 7,000 feet in the Cascade Mountains, not far from Ashland, Oregon (on the west coast of the U.S.). It was 11:00pm on one of my first nights of a fall semester studying there. The air was crisp and clear but not cold when I stepped out of the library onto the porch. Light falling on my shoulders through the library windows was the only light visible to me in the black night. I left the lit porch and crossed the two-lane mountain logging road and continued on the dirt drive home, lost in thought and darkness, face down, walled by Ponderosa pines almost invisibly black, when something caught my upper peripheral vision, stopping me in my tracks. No, not a moose. I was utterly Alone.
It was the sky. Stardust. Not a single patch of sky undotted with a star. But more than that, some dots were so densely clustered they melded solidly into Milky rivers and lakes of stars. It was a revelation to a small town 20-year-old who had only ever seen the dot-to-dot of major constellations like the Big and Little Dippers and Orion's Belt. Though I was sky-challenged and didn't have a clue what I saw, I was staring at the spiral arms of the Milky Way branching out from the center's Sagittarius. Life was different after that. There was a shift from knowing everything, to imagining what there was I hadn't yet seen.
Besides the 1980 Woody Allen film "Stardust Memories" - some say his best, and the 2007 fantasy movie "Stardust," there is also the song "Stardust" recorded in 1933 by Louis Armstrong (a jazz standard, it was also recorded by Sinatra and Nat King Cole).
Below is Louis Armstrong's recording of "Stardust." You'll hear him repeat the line "O memory" three times at the end, giving us the phrase "Stardust Memories." I never knew that three "memories" sung by Satchmo are the origin of this familiar phrase. Plug in your good speakers for this one, it's worth it.
And now the purple dusk of twilight time
Steals across the meadows of my heart
High up in the sky the little stars climb
Always reminding me that we're apart
You wander down the lane and far away
Leaving me a song that will not die
Love is now the stardust of yesterday
The music of the years gone by
Sometimes I wonder why I spend
The lonely night dreaming of a song
The melody haunts my reverie
And I am once again with you
When our love was new
And each kiss an inspiration
But that was long ago
Now my consolation
Is in the stardust of a song
Beside a garden wall
When stars are bright
You are in my arms
The nightingale tells his fairy tale
A paradise where roses bloom
Though I dream in vain
In my heart it will remain
My stardust melody
The memory of love's refrain
[oh memory . . . oh memory . . . oh memory]