The Pup and the Teapot
Posted on April 26, 2021
"In our world," said Eustace, "a star is a huge ball of flaming gas."
"Even in your world, my son, that is not what a star is but only what it is made of."
--C.S. Lewis, Voyage of the Dawn Treader
We are star stuff which has taken destiny into its own hands.
– Carl Sagan, Cosmos
The Pup and the Teapot
If each of your emotions were a star in the sky, what would the constellations look like? Which stars would make you proud? Which would make you hopeful? Which would you want to throw into a black hole?
Sirius, the Great Dog Star, is the brightest star in the night sky. It took a telescope for people to discover, however; the big Dog had a tiny Pup, a white dwarf. She was the first white dwarf anyone had ever noticed. She's beautiful in her own right, but it's hard to see her when she's bathed in the blinding glow of Alpha Canis Majoris.
In recovery, I've found most days aren't the blazing joy of Sirius, any more than they're the fiery red agony of Betelgeuse. Most days are the white dwarf of contentment. A pretty sunset. Waking up to the wet nose of a dog who loves you. Finding a couple of dollars you forgot in your jeans pocket. A text from a friend you haven't seen for a while. A delicious meal.
In the constellation Sagittarius, the ancient Greeks saw a centaur wielding a bow. If you look for him now, there's no mistaking the Teapot of the summer sky. That's what happens when you change your perspective. There's no going back to a time before you saw it. The ancients weren't wrong about what they saw. Our forebears had simply never seen a kettle before.
If you ever feel ashamed of the way you used to think, I hope you remember the teapot-shaped centaur and know you're in good company.
The universe, for all its staid laws of physics, is messy and chaotic. The north star we see right now wasn't always the north star. Earth wobbles a little on her axis, and Thuban was the pole star when the ancient Egyptians built the Great Pyramid. Historians assumed that the holes in the pyramid were air vents until they realized the holes perfectly align with Orion – as we would have seen him 4500 years ago.
When you change your goals, change your mind, change your outlook, it's just as natural as the Earth's precession. Be easy on yourself. Do we want to tear down the Great Pyramid and rebuild it so it aligns with our current position in the universe? Of course not. We can appreciate the beauty of why we evolved the way we have, no matter how confounding it might seem to someone who doesn't know our history. We can also choose our new North Star and design a future that fits with our current values.
Everything in the universe heavier than hydrogen was born in the heart of a star. Everything in your body was forged in the flames of a supernova, traveled uncountable light years, and laughed at entropy, just to give your soul a home. You are star stuff—and you are so much more than your atoms and molecules. When you see Orion soaring through the ecliptic, give him a companionable wave, one star to another. Look for Sirius' little Pup and appreciate the quiet, unassuming days of contentment. Keep working toward your personal Polaris and love your inner pyramid. And if you see a confused centaur, pour him a friendly cup of tea, and tell him I know how he feels.
Named for the headstrong princess of Irish mythology, Renfrew Center of Atlanta alumna Deirdre has always found comfort in nature, animals, and stories. She lives in a treehouse with a cat named Juniper. She would like to thank Dianna Wynne Jones for all her stories, especially the one about Sirius and his companion.