Ah, Sweet Mystery of Life. . .

deck 116When I was a kid, my dad would take us out in the back yard of our summer bungalow in Point Pleasant, New Jersey to star gaze. We had these big Adirondack chairs and he’d tip one against the other so that when we climbed into them, we’d be nearly prone–perfect for looking up at the diamond-lit sky. This is such a sweet memory for me that I had a couple of my characters do the same thing in my very first novel, Private Relations.

Fast forward to this week. We’re at our place on Topsail Island, where the sky is jet black at night and perfect for star gazing. The long broad bench in the picture runs nearly the length of our deck, so the other night I took a big comforter, stretched it out on the bench, and lay down in the pitch black night to watch the stars.

I can’t think of a better activity for putting one’s life into perspective than star gazing. It makes me feel inconsequential, and for some reason, I find that inconsequential feeling strangely comforting. I lay there thinking about those people thousands of years ago who watched the same stars and listened to the same waves, and those people thousands of years from now who will do the same. I thought fondly about my Dad. I thought about one of the themes in the book I was revising–how we change, how we’re not the same person we were a decade ago, or even yesterday. My mind was filled with giant thoughts and giant questions, the sort that overwhelm in a good way and make you grateful for every breath you’re lucky enough to take.

And then I began to notice something out of the corner of my eye. On the railing above the bench where I lay, I saw a small dark mound, a silhouette against the slightly lighter sky. A shell one of the kids left on the railing, I thought, and I started to reach for it.

But then it moved. I turned on my flashlight and illuminated the biggest honkin’ cockroach I’ve ever seen. I was off that bench and back to reality so fast I nearly tripped over my feet. I had to laugh. I mean, what else can you do? Talk about putting things in perpective. Thousands of years ago, there were cockroaches under the stars. Thousands of years from now, they’ll still be here. Hopefully, we will be too.

So, that was the end of my deep reverie on the mysteries of life. I went inside, shuddering a little from my run-in with the natural world. I snuggled into bed (after checking under the covers for critters) and turned on my iPad to read. It was time to lose myself in someone else’s mysterious life for a while.


  1. Margo on September 16, 2010 at 9:12 am

    OMIGOSH Diane!…I would have screamed at the top of my lungs!…this morning I was enjoying your wonderful blog about being 1 with the night and really reflecting on past and future, then your description of something moving startled me so much I gasped out loud!…I have the cockroach pictured as the size of a mouse?…omigosh I would have lost it…now I’M looking under my desk to make sure there’s nothing moving.

  2. Kathleen Neavill on September 16, 2010 at 11:31 am

    As long as he stays outside! And it is better then the rattlesnakes we have in the desert. I think there was an old quote that said “When the nuclear bomb is set off the only thing that will be left will be cockroaches and Cher!” Hate the roaches, but I love Cher.

  3. Ann on September 16, 2010 at 1:03 pm

    Diane, the cockroach would have sent me running as fast as possible. The house we rent at Topsail always has those small green lizards on the decks and steps. I actually think they are cute! Cockroaches are NOT cute.

  4. Diane Chamberlain on September 16, 2010 at 2:12 pm

    Ann, it was just creepy to be in the dark with that thing and not know if one might start crawling in my hair and . . . I just couldn’t stay out there any longer. I haven’t seen a single bug inside the condo. Outside is another matter. I haven’t seen lizards here either, though we have them all over the place at home. they’re so cute!
    Kathleen, so funny about Cher.

  5. Margo on September 16, 2010 at 3:04 pm

    My friend Laura and I were working away this afternoon and out of the blue Laura let out a yell…a SMALL cockroach was running under her chair!…how weird is that!…we never have cockroaches in this building!

  6. Diane Chamberlain on September 16, 2010 at 7:02 pm


  7. Denise on September 17, 2010 at 1:06 pm


  8. Brenda on September 17, 2010 at 8:45 pm

    We had those on s Carolina they called them palmetto bugs but when I moved no boxes went into my house
    I took no chances

  9. Rob Lopresti on September 18, 2010 at 10:49 am

    Great story, sis. I remember stargazing with Dad, too. We have a deck in back where we often sleep in the summer time and some years we can watch the perseid meteor showers. Free entertainment.

  10. brenda on September 18, 2010 at 10:55 am

    Rob-how wonderful…fun…

  11. Diane Chamberlain on September 18, 2010 at 1:01 pm

    Rob, that sounds lovely! No mosquitoes in Washington State? Unfortunately here in Raleigh we have so many trees around us we can’t see the sky. A trade-off.

  12. brenda on September 18, 2010 at 2:19 pm

    That was what I thought when I read that…Spokane had such lovely lovely trees everywhere…outside the city…esp on way to Couer d’Alene in Idaho…
    I miss Spokane-a lovely area…of course, not sure where Rob is…but I’ll bet he found a place where he could see through the trees…Let’s face it, Diane-NC and SC and GA-bug capitals of the world–however, I REALLY REALLY miss living in SC…

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