Letter From a Star Above Southern Indiana
It was a crisp fall evening, the leaves were down, smoke was rising from neighborhood chimneys, and I was walking home across an open field from a Boy Scout meeting held at the parish school. Usually I keep my eyes on the ground, but on this clear night, as the fresh air touched my cheeks, my eyes turned upwards, then soared above our new house at the edge of the woods. What I found in that southern Indiana sky was "miracle enough to stagger sextillions of infidels," as the great earth-poet Walt Whitman once said. There, burning bright above me, were so many dead stars I could never have begun to count them, if I had wanted to.
What I want to tell you now, wherever you are, whenever you read or hear this, however it is transmitted, is that even though I could not have framed the experience in just these words, even then I knew I was being blessed. Now, a thousand miles and almost fifty years away, I can tell you this: When I made out the shape of the Little Dipper, way above our house in that little woods in southern Indiana, I felt its collapsed light heading toward me, from thousands and millions of years away. When I also located the shape of the Big Dipper, so high above, I could feel its no-longer-alive radiance pouring down toward the house my parents had built for us children.
At that point, I had not yet seen or stepped inside the brick farmhouse that my father's family had built, with the help of new neighbors, when they arrived from Germany. Framed with tulip poplar from the virgin forest, it stood on a hill just inside the next county. I had not yet discovered that my mother's and father's families once lived about twenty miles apart, in the region of Bavaria known as Lower Franconia. Yet a part of me, the one that is finding these words to beam to you, understood on some level that the family who had crossed the Atlantic on a boat were walking with me under the stars toward the house I would later find so far away for my wife and children. I could not yet name all those who came before me, but felt their presence at my side, knew they were guiding me wherever I would go. I knew I must learn to speak their language, which some of us had already left behind, but which mother and father still spoke.
All who came before were walking with me toward the new house, as the light poured down on me from millions of light years before, just as I am walking with you, wherever you are, trying to speak to you in this language I hope is still yours, in this world I hope I still share with you. If you look up, as I looked up that night in southern Indiana, when the air was so fresh and clear, you may feel the light of this letter falling down toward you. You may even think you can see me in the night sky, will understand that I once walked the earth where you now walk. May this light bless you, your house, and those who come after you.
Norbert Krapf grew up in Jasper, IN and graduated from St. Joseph's College. He has published several books of poetry collections and a book containing pioneer German journals and letters from Dubois County.