Sunday, July 1, 2012


In a pool of sand and silt a starfish had thrust its arms up stiffly and was holding its body away from the stifling mud.

"It's still alive," I ventured.

"Yes," he said, and with a quick yet gentle movement he picked up the star and spun it over my head and far out into the sea. It sank in a burst of spume and the waters roared once more.

"It may live," he said, "if the offshore pull is strong enough."

He spoke gently, and across his bronzed, worn face the light still came and went in subtly altering colors.

"There are not many come this far," I said, groping in a sudden embarrassment for words. "Do you collect?"

"Only like this," he said softly, gesturing amidst the wreckage of the shore. "And only for the living." He stopped again, oblivious of my curiosity and skipped another star neatly across the water.

"The stars," he said, "throw well. One can help them."

He looked full at me with a faint question kindling in his eyes, which seemed to take on the far depths of the sea.

"I do not collect," I said uncomfortably, the wind beating at my garments. "Neither the living nor the dead. I gave it up a long time ago. Death is the only successful collector."

I nodded and walked away, leaving him there upon the dune with that great rainbow ranging up the sky behind him. ...

--Loren Eiseley, "The Star Thrower," in The Unexpected Universe

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