The big dipper is the only constellation I can recognize. Okay, sometimes I think I recognize Orion’s Belt. But the Big Dipper is unmistakable.
It was my father who showed me the Big Dipper. We were walking on the family farm on a warm summer evening and I had my son, a toddler at the time, on my shoulders. It was a clear night and the Big Dipper was very obvious. Dad talked about how you would learn to recognize it even when only part of it was visible. I’m sure he was thinking of the big sky in Saskatchewan of his childhood.
Since then there have been several occasions when I was anxious or under stress or depressed. And somehow the Big Dipper would show up in the sky.
I remember one occasion when I was alone at the wheel of a rather large ship, the Wawanesa, an old wooden fish packer and former rum runner with half the ribs removed to lighten it for races against the coast guard patrols. It was the end of the fishing season and the crew were celebrating and not much help with navigation. Standing at the four foot tall wooden wheel with the chain link to the rudder, I was feeling the stress and responsibility of piloting down from Prince Rupert through the inside passage. And there was the Big Dipper. It felt like my father was with me, a great comfort. Foolish, but there you have it.
To be clear, I am the last person to harbour woo beliefs. But confirmation bias is hard to avoid, eh.