I sharpened my hook against my whetstone and cast my line into the inky blackness.

Three tries later, I hooked a star.

I was a novice sky-caster and those slippery points of light liked eluding me. We seemed to have developed a relationship, though; if I practiced with good-natured patience, eventually the stars allowed me to catch them. Then I set them free.

The stars were drawing other casters, as well. Holding a slender casting pole, a boy the age of my young grandson approached me. “You’re not very good at that,” he said, with the innocent bluntness of youth.

His observation didn’t bother me. It was accurate, after all! “I’m sure I’ll get better, in time.” I reeled in my line, accidentally tangling it again. The little star broke free from my hook and sailed back up into the sky. A pang went through my heart—I would have enjoyed admiring its glimmer up close for a moment. How easily some things slipped away from us when we weren’t ready to let them go.

“It got away!” A girl a little older than the boy joined us, holding a banged-up tackle box and gripping another pole. Her eyes seemed hungrier for the stars than the boy’s. Some of us casters needed more wishes and dreams than others. I wondered what dreams she needed, and why.

But I only said, “I’m learning from the experience. I’ll eventually figure it out.” I finished untangling my line and cast again. Glorious stars lay strewn across tonight’s meteor-filled sky, creating a double glory—a sky begging for admiration.

“How can you be learning if you’re doing it wrong?” the girl asked.

“I untangled the line, didn’t I?”


“Aren’t you awfully old to just be learning now?” The girl set down her tackle box next to me, opened it, and chose a hook. The boy rummaged through the box’s contents and selected a hook, too.

They were brother and sister, I guessed. They had the same soulful eyes. I considered my answer to her question, since I was the oldest woman I’d seen casting, so far. “I don’t think it’s a matter of age. It’s about caring about what you’re doing.”

The girl studied her pole as if she hoped it would capture things far bigger and even finer than stars.

A minute later, I caught another star, a tiny, graceful one that perched on the tip of my hook like a finely crafted diamond. “Beautiful.” I gently pulled it in—no tangles this time—and let it rest on my palm so my new companions could see it. We all admired its sparkle, and then I nudged it free of the hook. It flew back up into the sky with a brilliant arc of light, the kind that sends hope into your soul and makes you smile after a dark day.

“You let it go already!” the boy cried in dismay.

“I couldn’t keep it,” I said, my curiosity rising about their method of sky-casting. But I didn’t want to spoil our new friendship with too many questions. “Look how brightly it shines up there. It wouldn’t be content down here with me. In fact, it’s light might go out.”

“But it’s gone….” the boy murmured. “Not everyone can see them when they’re so far away—”

The girl nudged him, and he stopped talking.

“It’s all right,” I said. “We all see differently.”

The girl and boy looked at each other, as if swiftly judging me. Then, she said to me in a low voice, “Mama can’t see the stars anymore. She says she’s going blind. The stars used to make her so happy. Now, she can only see them when they’re up real close. When she can hold them. So, we like bringing them home to her. Then she’s happy…for a little while.”

“I think I understand.” A longtime friend of mine had also lost his sight, and he’d loved the joy of the sky. “That’s a very loving thing for you to do for her.”

The girl glanced down at her tackle box. “Does their light really go out?”

“I’ve never kept a star for that long, but yes, I’m told so.”

“Do you always let them go?”

“Well, I’ve often wanted to keep them,” I admitted, sensing the need to be a co-conspirator. “It’s very tempting, but they’d be lost without their sky. And if everyone took one….” I didn’t need to finish.

“That’s what mama says sometimes.” The boy quietly wiped an eye, then gripped his pole. He tugged at his line, staring up at the sky’s brilliant display. A meteor shot past us. A smile flickered over his face, like a ghost.