I've always been a sky watcher. When I was a little girl, my grandfather took my brother and me for walks around the neighborhood, pointing out the stars as we strolled down sidewalks and across streets. Back then you could see stars even in the suburbs. The street lights were less destructive than they are now.
And yet now I watch the skies each night. Last night was the new moon. Tonight there will be a whisker-thin lunar crescent low in the west after sunset. I won't be able to see it of course. The constant rain of today will likely continue late into the evening. But even so, the mystery and predictability of it all speaks to me in a voice I understand.
When I was 35, the skies began speaking most clearly to me at a time when I was struggling to return to reality - quite literally. I had just started meeting with Dr. Lebensohn, receiving therapy for acute mental illness, and had recently became a member of a local astronomy club that met at the battlefield park outside of Manassas. The night skies were exquisite and I still remember my first experiences of looking through telescopes at The Big and Little Dipper, Casseiopia, Orion, and others. So beautiful I thought! Yet I knew so little. But the expert members of the club were wonderful at explaining the stars and their groupings as they moved and turned across the dark ceiling of the night.
It was Dr. Lebensohn who got me involved with all this. It started during my first sessions with him when he said with great emphasis, "Miss Goin, what do you want to do?" I was stunned by his question. No one had ever asked me that before. All my life people had expected things of me: my parents, my church, my school. There was never a door with my name on it. And all the other doors were labeled with things I could care less about: becoming a secretary, working for the government, getting married to a rich man, being a mother, going to nursing school. The idea of having to go through these passageways made me furious.
I wanted adventure, explorations beyond the sameness of a world I felt disconnected from. But the sky ... I felt connected to that! It was bigger than I could even imagine, and it enveloped me into a universe I knew I was destined to play a part; a connection to something from which I had come and would in some way ascend to ... through my imagination, my heart, my transcendence beyond a life on earth that had often felt so unwelcoming.
I didn't have a name or clear understanding of this "something" but it had always been there, starting perhaps with my kind and generous grandfather. And then in my twenties, I'd become a flight attendant, joyously traveling through that great blue ocean of air in large, spectacular planes of the 1960s. I was a hostess to the world, stylishly dressed, well trained, and eliciting smiles from my well fed and attended to passengers ... until my mental illness changed everything.
Now Dr. Lebensohn was asking me what more there might be. I could only think of the skies once again. "Astronomy!" I said. "I want to learn about the stars." And so I did, looking upward each night with kind and sharing people that only cared about watching the sky as I did. And today too, as I walk into my backyard each night, I continue to find myself in that wondrous place that lights up my heart with its enormous beauty and anchors me into a life of knowing who I am and where I came from.
Thank you Dr. Lebensohn. You opened a new door for me. And it still has my name on it. Knowing what you want to do and what to be makes all the difference in the world.