on the dakota night sky


(photo credit Sky and Telescope, Matthew Dieterich)

Driving down highway 83 south in the inky black


intent on the road

a flashpoint of light out the driver’s side window

catches my eye.

With a gasp I slow the truck


until a sudden bump reminds me of the shoulder

and I pull to a stop

a turn of the key


darkness descends. Utter silence surrounds me in the cold night

Sitting in the truck bed alone wrapped in a wool blanket

surrounded by the benevolent arms of creation

The rustle of grasses in the wind are the orchestra

of this Dakota evening

the swishing of their brushing against one another

a brotherhood of prairie flower, sweetgrass and thistle

dancing a swaying dance filling the late summer night.

But my eyes are entranced and the swishing of the grasses fades

for the sky—the sky—wide, horizonless


This night makes it easy to believe the legends

We came from the stars, it is said

Then there, to the north

The Big Dipper, named the Seven Council Fires.

Ancient voices whisper on the wind:

A Lakota woman went to marry a star

and then

fell to her death climbing down braided turnip stems

as she tried to return to her village through a hole

in the constellations

as she fell

her child was born

and became the Fallen Star.

And there, Orion’s belt

the backbone of a bison

The Pleiades, the bison’s head

the stars surrounding, low on the horizon

a racetrack around which the animals raced

the prize to the winner

a decision

whether humans got to stay on earth, or

be swept away by the Thunder Beings.

The lowly magpie won the race

and decided humans should stay

and so on earth, this human woman

wonders at the magnificence of the stars

humbled by the largeness of beauty

and my smallness in it

Gratefulness fills me as I make my prayers, and watch

as they ascend to the heavens above

a point of light flying swiftly to join the constellations

an answer

There is no darkness so great that light cannot

pierce it, you see



difficulty falls away

in the miracle of this silent night

the stars are the choir in this

great cathedral Earth

I heard the orchestra of God singing of glories unimaginable

miracles yet to come

of love eternally descending from heaven to earth weaving all humanity and the land, sea

animals and stars together

and back around again endlessly ascending a circle neverceasing

singing the music of the spheres

and I understand in my soul, the phrase


mitakuye oyas’in

we are all related

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