A young woman in a white dress was leading me through the woods to a spot that she wanted to show me. It was very early in the morning and still dark out and it was hard to see the path in front of me, but she seemed to know every step of the way. So I followed close behind her, and it was easy to see her white dress even in the dark. She knew the common as well as the Latin names of every tree and flower that we passed, and she called them back to me in a hushed voice and waved her hand at them as we went by. Whenever there was a break in the trees and we could see the stars, she would tell me the names of the costellations that she could make out: Cassiopeia, Pegasus, the big dipper and the little. She had a very prim and proper way of speaking, like reciting a lesson, or giving one.
I trudged along behind her, listening and nodding, grabbing at branches to hoist myself up at steep spots in the path. It occurred to me that a more cynical person might find her irritating, might think that she was spilling forth all this knowledge to show off, to make herself look smarter than everyone else. But I could tell that her enthusiasm came from a genuine place. She was simply excited about everything, about life, about the world, and so she had learned the given names of the things that interested her. I thought about the people that probably gave her a hard time for this, that made her feel like she was doing something wrong out of their own sense of inadaquacy, that made her feel apart from everyone else. So we moved along the twists and turns in the path, her reciting the names of the flowers and the trees, and me contemplating the loneliness of her life.
I heard the sound of flowing water somewhere nearby, growing stronger as we went, and as it began to get lighter out, I was able to discern through a break in the trees that there was a small stream running alongside the path, the ground sloping down towards it on our right. The path had led us down to the stream and it turned to follow along the course that the water had cut through the mud and the rocks and the smoothed stones. The path dipped down to the bank in spots, and then it would shy away and climb back up the hill away from the bank, and in these meadering places the young woman would dig in her heels and hike up the hem of her dress, spotted here and there with brown speckles of dirt and mud. At the top she would wave me on as the day broke through and the leaves and grass showed a brighter green around her.
Finally, we came to a spot where the stream emptied into a small pond. There was an opening in the trees along the east bank of this pond and the sun rose in this opening, showing the trees and the sky again in the surface of the water, clearer and calmer still than their orginals. We sat down in some tall grass beside the pond, and the young woman produced a small silver teapot that she had brought with her. She lifted the lid just a little ways and she held it up for me to see inside. I peered down into the teapot and I saw five little jewels of light, like stars, floating on the dark water within. The light from these stars shimmered against the metal insides of the teapot.
The young woman explained that she had come to the pond in the middle of the night and she had gathered up some of the stars that had been reflected in the water. She had taken these relected stars home and then, with a great deal of deliberation and patience, she had used a spoon to arrange the stars into a constellation of her own devising. Now she had brought the stars back to release them into the wild. She crawled down to the edge of the water and she carefully poured the teapot back into the pond. She came back and sat beside me in the grass. She said that now we just had to wait the day through, for the sun to climb overhead and finally set somewhere behind the trees on the far side of the pond, for the birds and the bugs to sing through the long heat of the afternoon, until finally it would be dark again and the stars would be out again, those five newly configured points of light rejoining them on the water and in the sky above.