A Galaxy at Our Feet

“The sky is pink this morning and on the shore a whole host of sea stars has been stranded.

I know from the charts the moon was full last night, the midnight tide higher than usual. Were the skies clear? Were the stars out? I’d like to have seen these creatures then: stars in the dark overhead and here a spiny constellation draped over the rocks.

One of the largest, a northern sea star, now lies upside down in the palm of my hand. Almost a foot across, its orangy body glistens wet in the dawn light. Hundreds of slender tubes wriggle like antennae, only these aren’t sense organs; they’re feet, and what they’re searching for isn’t food or enemy or mate, but something to cling to, any firm surface that can anchor them and end this futile flailing at the air.” —From “Sea Stars,” by Barbara Hurd, published in the May/June 2008 issue of Orion.

Tell us about your encounters with the natural world in the comments section, below.


  1. Last spring a mother porcupine appeared out of the woodlot behind my house, could hear it shuffling the leaves about, but it sounded too large, or too many. So I looked closer and found it had a pup, or cub, or whatever a young ‘pine is called. Pretty adorable, but its mom was not happy with me.

  2. A few summers ago, I was working on an acrylic painting which incorporated a hummingbird, among other elements. I was sitting on my deck one afternoon when a ruby throated hummer suddenly zipped into the garden. Nothing unusual about this; the birds had been zipping in to visit the feeder, and my flowers, all summer. This one, however, whirred straight to me. It hung suspended before me, at my eye level, twelve inches from my face. Its bright dark sparks of eyes seemed to stare intently at me, into me. For a long time, it hovered there before finally zipping from the garden again without visiting anything else. The painting I later completed is one of my favorites, hanging in my living room, reminding me of the gift I was sent one summer, a tiny energetic being of loveliness. Now when the birds come to my flowers, I think of the line from the poet Mary Oliver, how the hummingbird “that small green angel, soaks its dark tongue in happiness.”

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