Illustration by  Sarah Rimington.

Illustration by Sarah Rimington.

Savta, Hebrew for grandmother. When I’m in California, every morning I wake up to Savta in the kitchen; she puts the kettle on. We sit together on the deck, only a field of tall grass separates us from the bluff. Where it drops to the sea. Early light peaks over the brush of the ravine just beyond the field. It soaks through my eyelids. Sometimes we will bring a book to the deck, but I’m already romanced.

At the way she is humbled by the sea, and the smell of the ocean. I can tell she has a deep respect for life.

Once I asked her if she believed in God, even though I already knew the answer. She tells me, “I do believe that I am a spiritual person. I believe in science. And the mystery of the universe is more awe-inspiring when we don’t know how it happened, rather than inventing a little clockmaker, so to speak, to explain how it happened.”

At night, Savta talks to me about the stars. She says that when you’re born, they’re lined up in a certain way that you can read. She tells me about my stars and about my life—the things I’m good at and the things I need to work on. I will travel, I will love college, she says. There are no lights around. I can see Orion’s Belt and the Big Dipper. The Milky Way glows against a black canvas. These Cali stars are hypnotizing. They have a presence to them, like they’re heavy. Like they’re hanging from God’s fingers and dangling right in front of your nose, if we believed in that sort of thing. We sit in our chairs, wrapped in our blankets. Sometimes, when the night is clear, Savta brings out the telescope and we peer into the galaxy, looking for the man dangling the stars. Maybe something’s out there. Maybe if we sit here long enough we’ll get a glimpse.

In that way we’re the same, two hopeless romantics who just couldn’t quite accept the fact that someone out there had all the answers. After all…on this wooden deck so far from reality I have found myself. Not in a church, not on my knees looking into the hollow eyes of a statue, sitting down next to her looking into the stars.

I have learned that life is wonderful, limitless.

Savta has taken my hand, wrapped me in a blanket, and shown me with a telescope why I am beautiful, and why I am weak. ♦

Lee Phillips is freelance photographer and writer based in Washington, DC.