The Star Essay – Longreads


In this braided essay at The Georgia Review, Laurence Ross looks at the history of tarot and the motion and light of stars and figure skaters as he considers the inherent tensions in the act of writing. Laurence suggests that all stasis is vulnerable and that movement —whether predicted, expected, or involuntary — is both inevitable and beautiful, regardless of the final outcome’s success or failure.

In the fall of 2019, astronomers and lay observers alike noticed that the right shoulder of the constellation Orion was rapidly fading. The star, named Betelgeuse, seemed to be disappearing right before our very eyes. Now you see it, now you don’t. Supernova fever spread through the science pages of newspapers, and in January of 2020, Jonathan Corum of the New York Times published a piece titled “Waiting for Betelgeuse to Explode.” But the science beneath the headline was less sensational, as Corum confesses: “Betelgeuse will keep burning until the atoms in its core finally fuse into iron and the star runs out of fuel. When that will happen is unknown—perhaps next year, perhaps 100,000 years from now.” Diminished vibrancy does not predict imminent destruction or death; a star needn’t shine with equal intensity at all times to hold its place in the sky.

At the 2019 Rostelecom Cup in Moscow, Shoma Uno, wearing Caron’s galaxy costume, crashes to the ice after his first jump attempt, a quadruple Salchow. He doesn’t achieve enough height to complete all four rotations. The fall is more than falter; it is failure. On film, an audience member groans, loud and empathetic. But in figure skating, even failure receives applause. The audience claps in response, in encouragement, to bring the star back to life. What looks like death needn’t be so. Amid the clapping, with a spin, Uno is on his skates again. Forty seconds later, he executes a beautiful triple axel. Uno shines once more.

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