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Monday, March 02, 2009

stardust memory


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.


Stardust

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]


65 comments:

Nautankey said...

Thanks to my new fitness routine I am going for walks every night on my terrace and at times I stand there in a trance looking at those beautiful flickering lights above. I try to find some pattern in the stars placement and have been able to..immediately it takes me to those days in my old neighbourhood where we used to sleep in terrace on summers,not just for the sea breeze but due to the power cuts too.

Imagine almost 5-6 families sleeping on the terrace with we kids running on top of mattresses and pillows and as we lie down tired n exhausted we used to play the game of naming the stars and build stories on them...Shud accept ur posts ahve this uncanny power of reminding me the little time I spent with nature,feels good at the same time also feel guilty as I havent been able to spend too much time...another good one :)

Eliane said...

Lovely post. And let's give credit to the wonderful Hoagy Carmichael for the words and music of Stardust.

kanmuri said...

I live in the middle of the Japanese countryside and in summer, I like to sit on the porch with a class of wine and and friend to look at the sky just to talk. It is so relaxing.

I was really impressed when I went to Australia, for the stars are (obviously) totally different. From the middle of the outback, the sky was beautiful.

Ruth said...

It's so nice to picture you there, Nautankey, now and back then. Sounds like so much fun. I only remember doing something like that once with my brother, looking for a meteor shower that wasn't.

Ruth said...

Oh thank you, Eliane! When I found the youtube of Satchmo, I saw there was one by Hoagy Carmichael too. But I didn't investigate, and didn't once think about finding out who wrote it. Excellent.

Ruth said...

Kanmuri, that sounds heavenly to sit out like that with friends. Don and I sit out in the hot tub under the stars year round, but we only see the major constellations.

It must be disorienting to travel to the opposite side of the world and see the night sky flip. My sister traveled to Peru long ago, and when her ship crossed the equator the sailors jumped in the water in their tradition. I love the CSN song "Southern Cross."

Helena said...

Wonderful memory, I love the stars! I used to live in the countryside and gazed at the stars every night with my dog (well, he was mainly sniffing the ground for rabbits). I could see the Milky Way clearly too (doesn't happen often here in the city) and I remember spotting many shooting stars.

Butler and Bagman said...

I watch the stars every night when I walk Sally...except on cloudy nights when I watch the gray where stars would otherwise be. And thanks for the lyrics.

shicat said...

Song and post wonderful. Love any Woody Allen movie and could watch them over and over. My stardust memory may have occured this weekend as I left my son's new lake house,that they are renting from their Uncle. I looked up and noticed how bright the stars were by the lake, not that far from the city,yet just far enough to shine so much brighter. A bittersweet memory as my husband and I adjust to life without our wonderful sons living at home...

Barry said...

First of all, let me say hope glad I am that spring has come somewhere, even if only in your beautiful new header.

Secondly, your post brings back vivid memories of my own stardust memory.

Linda and I were camping in the mountains in New Hampshire when our youngest daughter needed to use the washroom, which meant a half mile walk, in the dark, to the other side of the camp.

However I was gracious (Grrrrr), unzipped the tent and staggered out into a night sky, as you describe, so alive with stars there was no room between them.

I called for my wife and my other daughter to come our which they did graciously (Grrrrr), and we all stood there in awed silence. One of the most profoundly religious moments of my life.

Ruth said...

Helena, I wonder how different your nights are in Finland? I suppose in the dark ones, the sky must be wonderful in the country.

I believe even in the most clear countryside here, free of light pollution, it is not the same as on a mountain.

Ruth said...

B & B, like Helena's dog, I imagine Sally might be sniffing for rabbits, but nice that you look up.

I had to post the lyrics since Satchmo is difficult to understand.

Ruth said...

Cathy, do you agree with some that "Stardust Memories" is Allen's best? I haven't seen it.

A lake house, huh? Lucky Andy. I was just yesterday wandering alone in the house when Don was out, feeling the absence of our children. Sometimes the wind wants to blow me to them.

Ruth said...

Barry, ding ding ding, you win the prize for first to note the header!

Even in a comment you tell a terrific story. I always feel the emotion.

Yes, religious is a good word. I think worship is a good description of what I feel about Nature too.

♥ Kathy said...

My 5 brothers and sisters and I would lay on the hill behind my grandparents house and stare for hours at the stars. I remember one time falling asleep out there because it was so peaceful. When I woke up everyone was gone except my brother. He was asleep too. :) Loved the video. This was an awesome post as usual Ruth!

Gwen Buchanan said...

Ruth, it was one of those nights, two nights ago... clear crisp deep navy blue sky.. every star visible that is visible to the naked eye..

absolutely halting...

we are such tiny mites in the whole scheme of things

Susan said...

Ruthie, the crocus header is perfect for calling Spring to come quickly! I love it.

As soon as I saw your title, I started singing Hoagy Carmichael's song. My oldest sister used to play that on the piano and we three girls would sing it together. That is one of my best stardust memories.

The other one isn't technically a stardust memory, but a treasured one nonetheless. There was a huge meteor shower in '02 or '03, I can't remember which. David's mom and dad were here, as well as Josh. Josh and my MIL and I got up at 1:00 a.m. and stood on the patio for 2 hours or more watching the most fantastic display I've ever seen. We were freezing, but none of us wanted to go inside to get warm. The sky was so clear and the burning meteors were so huge, I just couldn't get enough of it. I'll remember that feeling of oneness with space and my loved ones forever.

Ruth said...

♥ Kathy, I giggled out loud reading your memory. Just way too cute. Seems that many have a stardust memory.

Eliane said...

Hi Ruth, Hoagy Carmichael is a favourite of mine. A great songwriter and you can see him in one of my favourite films, To Have and Have Not, playing the pianist in the bar called Cricket. He is just so fundamentally cool.

Thanks for the comment about the girls. I agree, they are lovely!

Ruth said...

Gwen, ohh, imagining that on that mound of land looking down on the Bay, I get chills.

We are tiny, and yet we have a universe in one patch of our skin.

Ruth said...

Susie Q, I am getting goosebumps reading everyone's stardust memories. Sounds like you definitely had goosebumps in yours. And to think that it has stayed with you as a comfort and joy shows the power and worth of Nature to be adored.

Ruth said...

Eliane, I haven't seen that one, but it sounds so like "Key Largo" too, which came 4 years later.

Oh, that adorable picture of your girls. I never heard of St. David's Day before, well I'm not Welsh so . . .

Wandering Alice said...

Lovely. I wish there were more dark nights these days...I now have to drive a few hours to find the same kinds of skies I grew up with. Long evenings spent bathing in starlight are priceless.

I like the new header as well-spring is surely coming soon!

Ruth said...

Wandering Alice, your skies are white today, hope you can bear up under the Nor'easter and it will help you produce lots and lots of writing.

I couldn't resist ushering spring in on my blog by way of header, even if it isn't very springy outdoors. We have clear skies but very, very cold today.

Doublebanker said...

Very good post & photo!

Daily Gif Blog

DB

Denice said...

Thank you for this post, Ruth. I've been living in Seoul, South Korea for the past two years and the light pollution is so bad that I haven't seen a single star since last summer. On the one or two evenings a year that a few of them do make it through to us, I usually cry.

It's a strange thing to remember standing with my father on an Arizona mountain staring at the Milky Way. I've actually wondered if I'd added stars to the memory as I've gotten older, but your post assures me that I probably didn't.

Thanks again for stars, from a place that needs as many as it can get.

Sandy said...

Loved your post... reading your memories.

My dad, bless his long gone heart..not soul, in his younger days, 30 something, recorded a 78 record, one side he sang stardust and the other side prisoner of love.

I was just telling Mike the other day I have no idea where it disappeared. He had a great voice.

loved the post.

Sandy said...

I'm reminded of purple cotton cotton swabs with your banner, just beautiful.

kenju said...

That has been my favorite song since I was about 15.

Bel.Ishtar said...

Beautiful story!

Anet said...

We don't see stardust here in Lansing, all the city lights. But up north at my sister's, my kids are in awe of the night sky. It always reminds me of how very tiny we are, how vast the Universe is!

Okay, I have to put the Woody Allen movie on my Netflix que. I don't think I've seen that one!

CottageGirl said...

Thanks for providing the impromptu dance with my DH! Oh Satchmo!

Hate to say it, although I've longed for it, but I've never seen a sky like the one you describe!

I must put that on my bucket list!

CottageGirl said...

O one other thing...

LOVE the crocus, Ruth!!!!!

Arcadia said...

I like the verses a lot.It is said that each person in this world has a star.Thank you so much for this incredible thoughts.
Once in a while,I decide get away from all the crowd and the noise of town, taking the path to the mountains,where the stars are shining more brighter.
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delphine said...

Louis Armstrong was one of Alex's favourite performers, listening to him sing whilst reading the words left me reaching for my huge pile of tissues. Thankyou for that memory, Ruth! from Delphine

Leena said...

Thank you for the post and memories of you and mine too!

Warm greetings from here, visitors have gone and after some free days I am going to nurse Melli - It`s again the wedding day of her parents, we tried to manage two days and one night without them.

Have a nice Tuesday, Ruth!

caroldiane said...

thank you again, Ruth, for your lovely words and images - I am right with you as you walked through the dark forest! And a little Louis in the morning - fabulous!

rauf said...

My knowledge of the stars is very poor Ruth. The one that flickers is a star, the one that is steady is a planet. That is all i know.
i could be wrong here too

Loring Wirbel said...

Wolf Creek Pass, so cold at 3 am, and no end to the stars. Wonderful to read this with Louis in the background.

Ruth said...

Doublebanker, thank you.

Ruth said...

Hi, Denice, welcome to my Michigan blog! I assume you would like tea?

I smiled when I read what you wrote about maybe remembering more stars than were really there, because I thought the same thing as I wrote this post. :)

Ruth said...

Hi, Aunty Sandy. Oh, that's cool! I hope you can find it, what a treasure.

Purple cotton swabs, I can picture that. It's so cold here today, I wonder how soon the crocus will come up. It's supposed to warm up this weekend.

Ruth said...

Kenju, you must have been an old soul.

Ruth said...

It was a beautiful sight, Bel.Ishtar.

Ruth said...

Anet, the only thing we could see in the sky from our house in Lansing was the state capitol.

Tell me how you like the Woody Allen movie.

Ruth said...

Hi, Cottage Girl, impromptu dancing is almost as good as stardust. I hope you will get a chance to see it on a mountain one day.

The crocus was shot last spring in the little bed at the side of the house. I hope I'll see it again for real in a few weeks.

Ruth said...

Arcadia, welcome. Oh, each person has a star. I hadn't heard that before. I wonder if each star has a person?

Ruth said...

Delphine, welcome back, I need to catch up on the chateaux! I see you're on your third today. :|

Oh, I hope that wasn't too bittersweet a memory. It's good to remember a time that you haven't thought of with Alex for a while.

Ruth said...

You, dear Leena, could tell me a thing or two about stars, I think.

So our sweet Melli is growing bigger, and she will help you clean and cook and take care of her baby doll.

Ruth said...

Caroldiane, I would love to explore in your neck of the woods. BC is one place I hope I can visit one day. I'm glad you enjoyed the dance with the stars.

Ruth said...

Oh, rauf, that sounds familiar, I think you're right.

Ruth said...

Loring, at almost 11,000 feet, a good 4,000 feet closer than I was, must have been indescribable.

mystic rose said...

First of all I love your header. Spring's almost in the air :)

I know what you mean by that night sky. I saw the same in a few places...in Italy, while on a mountain side, and right here in upstate New York in a rural area. Its exactly as you described it, absolutely breathtaking :)

that song is delightful.

Bob Johnson said...

Isn't the night sky amazing? I feel like I'm at home among them, beautiful post Ruth, and I love your new header.

We are expecting 20 cm of snow this weekend,I hate snow, probably because I have the responsibility of making sure we have none at the mall through constant snow removal,so your new header gives me hope of a snowless time to come.

Ginnie said...

When you can see the stars like dust, Ruth, you know that you are "alone" in Nature as in the days of yore. Its' WONDERful.

Ruth said...

Mystic, I realized after reading comments and others' awe-inspiring experiences that it makes you want to dance with the stars. Hope your kids can see it before long.

I hope Shivani's birthday was a big success and that she is now prepared for the big seventh year that lies ahead of her.

Ruth said...

Bob, you were on my mind throughout writing this one, of course. I wonder how often you are able to get outside Saskatoon to view it. I know you drive out to the country. I wonder if you've been next door to the Rockies at all?

Oh, keeping the mall parking lot free of snow must be such a pain. I was talking with a friend yesterday about NYC and the 3,000 miles of snow removal and having to dump it by the truckload into the Atlantic. Where do you take it in Saskatoon?

Ruth said...

Boots, I don't know if you saw my comment about when you crossed down under on the way to Peru. That must have been so strange to see the sky flip. And I think you have seen amazing skies all over the world in the many places you've visited. Maybe mostly in the UP?

Anna said...

Oh Ruth, I have seen sky like that once when we had black out few years ago, otherwise those damn city or town lights, lol. Funny you say 'Big and Little Dippers' - this is all I could recognize too, but you got Orion, lol. Thanks for sharing this beautiful post. Anna :)

mystic rose said...

I am terribly missing her baby-hood Ruth. It seems as though she has grown by leaps and bounds.

Ruth said...

Anna, the only stars of Orion I know are the three in a row, his belt. I couldn't tell you where they are in the sky, unless I can point.

Ruth said...

Mystic, ohhh, it's hard. Now you'll have to be like me and wait for grandbabies.

Pouty Lips said...

This is a truly wonderful post. We have land up in northern Arizona and I stare at the night sky and the stardust literally for hours on end. I see a million different universes every 30 minutes. It's amazing.

Ruth said...

Pouty, incredible!