“Orion Reclines” two decades on

Twenty years ago, reeling from the unfathomably wrenching reality of tragedy at my college, I decided nevertheless to set sail on a mother-daughter sail-training cruise in the Caribbean. With five other women, we learned all about how to check the engine, set the sails, and navigate our way to the next island in time for cocktail hour. “Surreal” doesn’t begin to describe what this woman-child experienced in that attempted escape from the deep grieving of the snowy north.

Could warm salt water and rum drinks and fresh conch-fritters somehow carry me to any kind of better place? And when those failed there was the dancing into the night with locals in bars that were no more than lean-tos in the sand. I felt, as I wrote in my journal, like a train that had leapt its tracks but kept on rollicking over the countryside. Adventures and mishaps ensued.

So, there I was lying on the deck of our little boat in one harbor and then another, gazing up and up into a cloud-spotted sky and seeing Orion the Hunter beginning his nightly journey across the Caribbean winter sky. I had sailed here before and it was a kind of homecoming to gaze once again into this farther-south expanse of sky, where Orion’s neighborhood flashes with even more bright stars.

And against the backdrop of all of this — the violence and rupture I’d flown from, the perfusing pleasures of warm sailing breezes and drinking and dancing, and the night sky itself — what could I do but let heart and soul sink upward into deepest wonder. Legend has it that our father Abraham was a star-gazer who found answers to his deepest questions from wondering at the night sky. Me? I got this song.

Orion Reclines

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I had already started writing songs — from childhood on, really — but in retrospect this one is clearly the first “keeper” I ever caught. Listening again across the years I feel it stitched with some of the same threads that run through my latest work “at the edge of the unknown.”

Happy 20th birthday little song, may you sail on and on, inviting others to wander and wonder right along with you. May you be for healing.

What invites you into wonder?

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