In the desert, the night sky presses down, making you feel that if it wasn’t so vast and you weren’t so small, there would be no room to breathe. Here, away from civilization, it is easy to imagine you can feel the earth spinning. When you are properly dizzy and lightheaded, you are glad the balloon string of gravity keeps you from floating away and popping against the sharpness of the stars.
In Los Angeles, the night sky does not press down. The skyscrapers hold it up and the lights make it look like faded jeans randomly studded with old rhinestones. The city doesn’t need the stars in the sky, it makes its own. These human stars dazzle and we bathe in their glow. We follow their orbits and changeable constellations wanting to be near, to see, to touch, hoping to catch some stardust so that we, too, may sparkle, if only for a while. Our imaginations are caught in the web of their glamour and we are starstruck.
Occasionally the spell is broken, even in Los Angeles. The Northridge earthquake shook us from our predawn dreams. Huddling in the courtyard of our apartment building, my neighbors and I comfort each other. Inside is broken glass, overturned bookcases, and damage we cannot see. Outside, we hear the wailing of a city in turmoil. While we wait for sunrise, someone looks up and gasps. Los Angeles is dark, but there above us the stars shine with their own light, undisturbed. I tilt my head back and feel the earth spin.