The oceans and lakes and rivers and streams reflect stars on cloudless nights. They wave and shimmer, they dance with the water's movement. If you watch those reflections, where do you go? What do you think?
I think those reflections are our sons and daughters, that our children are those stars. I think we are the oceans and lakes and streams and rivers, and without those stars shining on us, we would dry up - there would be no current, no splash against stone, no gentle lapping on the stream bank, no violent surge of sea against ancient shore.
We - the battle-scarred, sometimes cynical, occasionally joyous, plodding and plotting elders - look to those stars at night and are comforted. We sigh. We stop to admire their beauty, their consistency, their piercing brightness, their unflagging determination. And when one of them streaks across the sky and disappears, leaving the illusion of an unerring straight line between the heaven and the earth we occupy, we wish. Perhaps for ourselves, or the star itself, or the stars left as mute but still shining observers to their comrade's passing. We wish, and then we mourn.
When the dawn breaks, our sons and daughters become someone else's on the other side of the world. Yes, it's true. Our children belong to everyone. At some point, they will become a river or lake or ocean or stream, and cease shining and begin reflecting, and neither we nor they know when or where that will happen, but we do know that it will. It's inevitable. Our duty - our obligation - is to show them how it's done. When you change from the celestial to the earthly, you must settle in. You reach out and explore the banks of your flow, where you can and can't go.
You may decide to caress and slowly sculpt a boulder in your path; you may decide to be still and confined within known shores. You may decide to stay stagnant and let the detritus of life slowly accumulate on you. Still, the things around you will be changed by your very being. There is no escaping that. Understand that it remains your choice how to wield that change. Do you send a wave against a cliff? Do you reach out and snag a fallen leaf off the shore and carry it a hundred miles from home and deposit it on unknown soil? Do you gurgle and gently froth over rocks smoothed by earlier generations?
There is no wrong choice. Sometimes, even, there is no choice at all - it is pressed upon us and our flow, our depth, our surface changes. But it is still us. We adapt.
The watering and reflecting we've all done will result in a few hundred stars this month. We'll watch them ascend, faster, faster, until we can only see them at night. Knowing that down the road they will rejoin us; that they will become placid or turbulent but always purposeful.
I salute you, stars. I bow and kneel to you, I wish you Godspeed and a thousand Irish toasts. Whether you shine brightly or dim or hide behind the clouds, whether or not you flame out.
You are my nighttime blanket, and I thank you for my sleep.
Greg Loheit is coordinator of The Center, a program for at-risk children at Durango High School. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.