Zuihitsu in a Field of Stars

Copyright Ken Brady. No reproduction without express permission from the author.
(Originally published in DAILY CABAL, 2010)

Of everything I’ve seen, every place I’ve traveled, nothing has quite prepared me for the Earth’s glow as I approach home. It’s a bittersweet thing to return to one’s place of origin, so long after having left, with little knowledge of what to expect. Of what happens next.

I scan my notes, make a few more. I reflect.

602,223. Things That I’m Lucky to Have Experienced

Memories of a happy childhood. Clean mountain air. Running naked through the path of sprinklers on freshly mown grass. Images of family, parental love, school and accomplishment.

Vast fields of stars, stretching as far as the eye can see. A comet blazing across a backdrop of asteroids the size of cities. Cracks and bangs from all around, as sunlight expands the hull, at once identifiable and frightening in the constant reminder that only a thin layer of metal separates me from the dark and cold of space.

First contact with a sentient alien race. Being the first to learn a language no one on Earth can yet speak. An understanding of self that can only come from living in a culture that is not your own. Validation of a significant place in the universe.

True love.

656,767. Augmented Things That Should Have Remained As Nature Intended

Snakes.

765,005. Things That Cannot be Cloned

A puppy who wags his entire body while his tail seems to stay in one place. The one marigold in a field that leans away no matter what you do to turn it toward the sun.

The sharp tongue of a woman born with money and never weaned off its sense of entitlement.

The unexpected.

821,211. Things That Are Irrecoverable

A body if life support systems and hull integrity have completely failed. Communications if the antennas have burned out. A planet if some unknown disaster has befallen it.

Certainty.

900,989. This is How We Remember

Backup the brain and the experiences, and hope that most of what was still is.

Write things down. Memories and observations. Hopes and dreams. Thoughts both good and bad.

A life is these things, and more. Sometimes less.

1,001,455. Things We Must Never Give Up

A child’s questions when her eyes are full of wonder and the future lays before her, still unbroken. The understanding that she may follow her dreams. Encouragement that she should do so.

Hope.

Perhaps it should, therefore, not bother me that these notes will likely burn up on re-entry. All the images, the videos, the logs such as this. Probably no one will know my thoughts. No one will know who I once was, what I experienced, what I became.

Descending does not necessarily mean the end.

A soft landing is always possible.