I have a memory of a boyfriend teaching me about the constellation Orion. It was winter and our feet were cold. As he talked his breath hovered in the air sharing the same space as not only the Northern lights but even the Milky Way. I listened closely as my friend pointed out Orion’s glittering belt and bow. He gave me a Disneyfied story that called Orion, THE Hunter. The implication was that Orion was a great hero who earned his immortality. He was so magnificent that his stars are among the brightest in the universe. It is a terribly romantic memory that I never forgot. Even today Orion is one of the few constellations I can locate.
Orion is nowhere to be seen at the moment but if I lay down at the top of the hill nearby and look up into the night sky I can find the Great Bear foraging in the north where the air is cool and the world is abundant with fish and berries. That’s the direction home. If I look south I can see Scorpius. I imagine his days are a little less pleasant and feel more sweat slicked as summer days are in Austin. This is where I am.
Pretty soon Orion the hunter will get hungry. He will stride out into the night sky but Mother Bear will just snort and snuffle around for a tasty mushroom or two. Orion rates hardly a glance. She knows Orion is no hero and is nearly universally despised. What my friend failed to mention all those long years ago was that Orion is a nasty piece of work who was blinded and exiled for his crimes. He forever stumbles along seeking the light lost to his soul.
While on his hungry journey he constantly worries about Scorpius dogging his track. You see, Orion the hunter is in turn always hunted. The goddess Gaia was so offended by his actions against women and the wild that she decided temporary blinding wasn’t punishment enough. Scorpius, glittering with poison happened to be at hand so Gaia released him to roam along the edge of Orion’s darkness. Everyone knows arthropods are Mother Nature’s favourite life form. If you want a job done right send in something with a lot of legs. The scorpion is stealthy. Orion can’t see him but he knows that skittering noise he keeps hearing at the edge of awareness is not his imagination.
(Fun Factoid: Black lights make scorpions glow in the dark making them a little bit like earth stars.)
Over the course of winter, Orion will slowly diminish. When spring comes we can all cheer as Gazelle flies through the universe with three triumphant leaps of joy. That is what freedom looks like and that is where I’d like to end the story.
This is the story I want to tell about the night sky this year. Now, I have to admit that I am the worst star gazer. My vision is poor and I live in the centre of a very bright city. Like so much in my life, the stars are fading away. Perhaps the gods fade with them. If Gaia can no longer see the rest of the universe will she become so lonesome she will also simply fade into nothingness?
Nerd Notes :
How to find the Three Leaps of the Gazelle:
The Astronomy (Fragments) By Hesiod