Gemini, Gemini

Gemini, Gemini May 14, 2024

a person with outstretched arms in silhouette against the stars in a night sky
image via Pixabay

On Sunday night, I tried to see the auroras one last time.

I drove up to Fernwood State Forest, to the scenic overlook facing northwest. I could see for miles, and the sky was perfectly clear, but there were no auroras.

An owl hooted at me from a nearby tree. I hadn’t heard owls in years and years, not since I visited Pocahontas County as a teenager.

Hearing an owl in the dead of night is unnerving in a way I can’t describe. I think it’s because they sound so much like people. A dog doesn’t really say “bow wow” and a cat doesn’t really say “meow,” but the barred owl really does ask “Who?” You could believe that instead of an owl, there was a madman sitting in a tree just off the edge of the precipice, demanding “WHO cooks for you? WHO cooks for YOU-all?”

Another barred owl replied, much further away. “WHO cooks for you? WHO cooks for YOU-all?”

A third barred owl to the right of me joined in the debate with the same question. I listened to them go back and forth, quarreling about who would do the cooking, never coming up with an answer.

I looked up at the stars, which were brilliant.

I looked down at my phone, ruining my night vision. Fernwood State Forest is close enough to civilization that my phone still worked, so I quickly looked up a night sky map. I pulled up a tab and looked at Google Maps to figure out which way was north. I looked back at the star chart. Polaris was over the tree with the noisiest owl, dimmer than I thought it would be. It was hard to imagine that Vikings could steer a ship based on that tiny speck– but then again, Vikings didn’t have light pollution from Steubenville to contend with. To my left was the moon, a plump crescent, low in the sky. Next to the moon in a perfect straight line were two bright stars,  much brighter than Polaris. These were Castor and Pollux, the heads of the Gemini.

Reading “Gemini” gave me an autistic glimmer.

I’ve seen so many words spent on remarking that autistic people hate sensory stimuli and how irritating we are when we melt down because of it. But I’ve seen very little about the opposite: we are so sensitive that when the stimuli are just right, we thrill with the most sublime delight. I’ve read that that’s called an “autistic glimmer,” but I don’t know who coined that phrase. I have many glimmers: the sound of water over rocks. The glitter of sun on a lake. The feel of clean sheets. The smell of crayons. Suds spraying over the windshield at the car wash. Running a handful of beads between my fingers. Eating a perfectly ripe black raspberry. Some of my autistic glimmers are words that sound pleasing to the ear. I like to stim by repeating them again and again under my breath.

“Gemini,” I said to myself, staring at that perfect conjunction: the moon, Castor, Pollux. “Gemini. Gemini. Gemini.”

“WHO cooks for YOU?” demanded the parliament of owls. “WHO cooks for YOU ALL?”

“Gemini, Gemini, Gemini.”

Immediately, I was fifteen years old again, a lonely homeschooled teenager with improperly diagnosed autism, reading a dull science textbook photocopied from a 1930s original by Seton Home Study School. “Have you ever heard anyone say ‘By Jiminy’ or ‘Jiminy Crickets?” You must never say that, because that is swearing by the Gemini, the name of a pagan god.” All the Seton Home Study texts were full of odd admonishments like that. There were a million things you mustn’t do: wear a sleeveless dress, omit mortal sins in confession, say the Lord’s name without bowing your head. But this commandment was the most ridiculous of them all.

“Gemini, Gemini, Gemini,” whispered thirty-nine-year-old me, half worried and half thrilled that it might be a sin. “Gemini, Gemini, Jiminy Crickets.”

I thought of the times I’d been afraid to read the funny papers at my grandparents’  house, because the horoscopes were printed next to the comics in a little line. I was terrified that if my eye accidentally wandered to the horoscopes, I’d commit a mortal sin and become possessed. No, that’s not what Catholicism actually teaches, any more than there’s a magisterial document that says that you mustn’t say “Jiminy Crickets.” We’re not supposed to practice divination, but the fear and paranoia aren’t necessary. Saint Albert Magnus even had a whole book on astrology and how it could influence our destinies, and Aquinas cited it.  But I still grew up in terror of such things. I’d been indoctrinated to fear the devil and demonic possession that much.

“Gemini. Gemini.” I turned to the south to see if I could find the Hydra, but the Hydra was lurking behind a line of trees. I turned east towards the Ohio River, and found Cassiopeia.

“WHO cooks for YOU?”

“Gemini. Hydra. Cassiopeia! Polaris! Vega! Orion! Canis Major! Betelgeuse, Betelgeuse, Beetle Juice!”

“WHO cooks for YOU ALL?”

Shivering in my thin sweater, I felt perfectly happy. I wasn’t afraid and I wasn’t guilty, just happy.

I remembered again that terrible truth that I’ve decided must absolutely be real: if God is a god of justice, then things that hurt no one are not sins. Hurting other people is sin. Hurting yourself is sin. Causing suffering to animals is a sin. Spoiling nature without good cause is sin. Defacing beauty for no reason or just to spiteful is a sin. Deforming yourself inside so you come to be the kind of person who would do such things without noticing is sin. But words aren’t sins, and stargazing isn’t a sin, and wonder and awe are not sins.

“Gemini.”

I didn’t get home until one in the morning.

I didn’t see any auroras that night, but I had so many glimmers that I feel as if I did.

 

 

Mary Pezzulo is the author of Meditations on the Way of the Cross, The Sorrows and Joys of Mary, and Stumbling into Grace: How We Meet God in Tiny Works of Mercy.

"Thank you for a very powerful and compelling portrayal of spiritually inspired self-realization and self-affirmation."

To Grow Where You’re Planted

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