In womb he was occipitoposterior, meaning his head was pointed at mum’s feet and his eyes were looking at mum’s tummy. Americans have an adorable colloquialism for this position: sunny side up. Germans have a beautiful one: Sternengucker—stargazer.
Giving birth to a Sternengucker can be complicated. Most often, a longer labour. More exhausting for mum and baby. Sometimes the baby gets stuck and an emergency c-section is called for. (Our boy avoided that fate only just, thanks to luck, and the craft and intuition of the Grandmaster.)
In utero we might not want a stargazer, but in vivo we do, and we all get one; the most immediate fact about a baby is how it sees the world. A dirty sock is as majestic as the Milky Way, a murmuration of starlings, a ninety-year-old’s hands wandering gracefully over piano chords learnt in her youth.
We adults have lost this wonder-by-default. Instead we must chase and grasp at wonder, and because the universe has a sense of humour the harder we chase and grasp the more rapidly wonder recedes. Like a dropped dollar bill taken by the wind.
A loss much more tragic than comic. As we grow up our minds and memories chew up novelty until it takes a bungee jump or Cirque du Soleil to lift the mundane veil. Eventually we recognise the folly of the novelty ratchet. From a podcast, near-death experience, or wide-eyed friend just returned from silent retreat, we learn that the ordinary is technically as wondrous as the numinous, and with tremendous dedication we might even access pure consciousness and see, for a brief and timeless second, the stars in a dirty sock.
Or not. I struggle to experience a sock as more/less than a sock. Like most I find my salves in nature, art, meditation, yogic attention to the body. And now, more restorative than them all, in my little stargazer. I pay witness to him seeing the world, and I see again.
He is on his stomach on the living room floor. He stares at the beige, unvacuumed rug. He makes and releases a slow fist, drawing his fingertips over the rug’s tight weave, over and over, delighting in the rustle and feel. A spell breaks. I don’t see in the rug a factual cascade—is dusty, needs vacuuming, whole house needs vacuuming, whole house needs a whole lot of things… —I actually see the rug. I almost see the stars.