In the early morning I step outside, wondering how I will manage the unrelenting pace of the next few school days and the emotional turmoil of this divisive election. Walking to the car, shoulders bent under the weight of my bags, I notice three neatly aligned stars clearly gleaming in the dark sky over our barn roof – Orion’s belt.

Attention caught, I set my bags inside the car, shut the door and look around, taking the time to appreciate the brilliant network of stars sparkling above. I search the skies and spot the Big Dipper, low on the horizon, then try to pick out other more elusive constellations.

My mind skips back to a recent event with a volunteer astronomer at our school. He came one evening to set up a telescope and show us the moon, constellations and other stellar objects. As darkness crept in, he trained his telescope first on the moon.

We had gathered in the soccer field and students and parents alike oohed and aahed as they took their turns and saw the moon’s detailed landscape filling the scope of the viewer. Some children ran off shortly afterward, drawn by the lure of the darkened playground, plenty of peers, and no imminent recess-ending whistle. Many remained, enthralled by the flow of facts and stories. Our volunteer pointed out varied lunar landscape features and spoke of “mares,” “craters” and “rilles.” Periodically he scanned the skies, looking for other emerging objects.

After a bit he crowed, “There’s Venus!” and eagerly readjusted his telescope to capture that planet in its sights. As the evening progressed and the stars emerged, he told stories of Greek gods and goddesses, linking Cassiopeia to Andromeda and Perseus, tracing star patterns across the sky with his brilliant green laser pointer.

On this chilly fall morning I look at those stars gleaming above and try, in vain, to put them together into the patterns our volunteer had shown us. I imagine them like a road map of the heavens and envy his ability to navigate them with ease.

The scope of space befuddles me, and I can’t quite wrap my head around light years and galaxies and solar systems. Clearly, I am not the first to feel immeasurably small in the face of such overwhelming vastness.

Through the ages, man has valiantly tried to make sense of it all, to impose some sort of order or meaning over it, weaving patterns together into narrative constellations – invoking the power of story to light a navigable path through the night skies.

Standing in my driveway, stargazing, I may not be able to place myself precisely in this universe, but I am here.

After contemplating the stars, my worries seem slightly less significant, less overwhelming. Looking upward one last time as I climb into my car, humbled by the incomprehensible immensity of that dazzling display overhead, I take a deep breath and set off into my own story, determined to write it as well as I can.