It is as if lying at the bottom of a swimming pool: a shining, shifting object like a small coin. The object is there: it can be seen. Its outlines can be traced, some details detected, and yet if the pool could be drained only for a moment: the letters on its surface, the small scratches and nicks from handling, a sense of its history and its purpose.
Look out the window and see the sky aglow with its stars in all their staggering indistinctness. And now: a starfield incomprehensible and crowded with lights that do not shimmer but are firm and steady and do not falter. Every feather and crest perfectly outlined. Each beak sharp in its point. How they shine even now.
There are a variety of longings. This one drifts through the circle of lit space like a ghost.
A cluster of blurred light whose history you already know. Galileo had counted forty individual stars. You could likely count the same number had you the desire or need to do so. The Beehive. Messier, never the poet: “a cluster of stars known by the name of the Cancer nebula.” Before it had been as if a huge mystery floated in plain view of everyone but was essentially akin to a foreign text impossible to read except for those trained in its grammar. The forty-five had become one hundred and ten by the end of his life. And not stars but objects: clusters and nebulae and distant galaxies. Indistinct. Curiouser.
Of course there is no answer. What answer might you give? An answer in minutes and seconds? The low sky to the north until your eyes blur out trying to resolve objects. And you have a count of them too. But which have you already counted? Each star shifts against the pool bottom of the atmosphere and so his view continues to be garbled by distance and by the last light of the sun still blues out the horizon even to the north. The array of stars tangled together as if it had some meaning but no meaning could it have. And so it goes on: the night a blurry, terrible thing that is stationary only as a cruel illusion, like the camouflage of an animal that lay so still as to seem part of the landscape itself and then, in an instant, slithering away, the illusion so complete that when it was gone the landscape itself appeared exactly as it was and then again the motion for all the while the slithering animal had been replaced by another and another until the watcher knows only that the landscape viewed is no landscape at all but only a field of slithering animals all moving at once and that the watcher itself is standing upon such a field so that he too moving along with them and as such the entirety of the scene is of motion itself and yet offers the illusion of being frozen and so shall it ever be.