from the song, Beneath the Southern Cross by Patti Smith
Somehow the things that truly touch me in Africa, like the sky, wind up adding meaning far beyond just the stars. Africa draws you in like a spiritual experience, maybe it's because man originated here that accounts for what happens---I don't know, but it's a definite happening.
As darkness was descending over the entire area like a shroud, my friend Stanley said to me, “look Tshepo.” I looked over to see the full moon lurking low in the sky, orange in color, and seemingly not wanting to move. It kind of stunned me that it was this late and the moon wasn't high in the sky. But then curiously, Stanley asked why I'm always outside at night looking at the sky. Little did he know, he was about to get an lesson in the Southern Hemisphere.
Stopping dead in my tracks, I told him that the sky of South Africa offers some of the best star gazing on the planet. Not that I am any kind of astronomer, but I pointed out the Southern Cross to him, the most famous and distinctive sight in the Southern Hemisphere (yes, I had to explain what the Southern Hemisphere was)---which really, is pushing the limits here, but I did my best, as well as pointing out other stars I was familiar with. There are many myths about the Southern Cross---the indigenous people of the sub continent were kind of exposed to a cosmic clarity, the Basotho Bushman saw a giraffe with outstretched neck, other bushmen saw a pride of lion, while the Zulu saw the Souther Cross as the Tree of Life. The bushmen believed that the 2 pointers as the male lion were once men, but a magical girl turned them into stars. It was like telling a little kid a fairy tale story who knew absolutely nothing of the world, even what was magical right above his head.
As the two of us were both immersed in the sight of the Southern Cross, quietly I thought about how sailors used celestial navigation in their long journey's, and I'm wondering what is my Southern Cross as I journey and navigate through life in Africa. What tools do I use to discover the fire within or inner light, and do we not owe it to the process to shine bright for others here, which is sometimes hard to do. We teach, we lead, but sometimes, like tonight, we just need to stand like a star to guide, without question or judgement---to admire and show others they too can discover.