SIGNAL HILL, SOUTH AFRICA — Relying on a thin clump of blankets to keep myself warm, I spent my last night at the safari tour sprawled across the wintry grass, out in the darkness, with a company of friends and the stars.
The day was long. Awake from the peak of dawn, our group traveled over seven hours in a cramped shuttle bus, window-watching the golden sunrise and the vast hills beyond. At the game reserve, we strolled along the riverside with a herd of teenage elephants, bartering carrotsticks and raw potatoes for sloppy wet trunk-hugs. From the vantage of a land rover, we passed by giraffes and zebras, strelitzias and proteas, scenes inimitable even by the live-action Lion King.
By the time the blues and purples of the sky scarfed the lighter oranges and yellows, as darkness smeared onto the sky’s canvas, we distanced ourselves from the comfort of the campfire — for only in the dark could we see the stars. We found an empty patch of grassland far away from the backpacker’s lodge, and with double-layered socks and blankets, we confronted the winter chill.
Huddled together like a waddle of jackass penguins, we lay on our backs, looking out and above us. The celestial spheres held open a panoramic stretch of stars, white and gold, softly flaring, alive. A shower of shooting stars — the Delta Aquariids — graced us with its radiance, in our periphery, streaks of light slicing the night sky. We whispered ageless wishes and indigo dreams, drifting in an endless navigation of the astral.
To observe the stars is to board a time machine. The starlight visible to us emanates from celestial bodies light-years away, and since light takes quite some time to reach earth, right now we are seeing light from what the stars looked like perhaps hundreds or thousands of years ago.
I sought to take a picture of this very moment, to leave an imprint to look back upon, but I realized that no attempt at photographic mimesis could ever capture the boundless freedom and comfort I experienced.
Withal, stars do not cease to exist even after the sunrise when we feel evermore distant and apart, as cherished moments fly by into yesterday’s memories. They’re always there for us afar.
Woojin Lim ’22 is a Crimson Editorial editor in Winthrop House.