Thursday, 11 July 2013

Calista in the Sky with Diamonds.

Let It Be

Penny Lane is in my ears and in my eyes
There beneath the blue suburban skies
I sit, and meanwhile back
Penny Lane is in my ears and in my eyes
There beneath the blue suburban skies...
Penny Lane.

                                                                                 The Beatles, "Penny Lane"

Memory is a funny thing; random events can set off a cascade of unexpected thoughts and emotions at the most inopportune times. The scent of a perfume barely caught as a woman walks past on a crowded city street can take me back to my first teen-aged romance while a tattered photograph from a dusty family album can set me to reminiscing about a long forgotten summer vacation. Just the other day, while Roni and I cruised down the Island Highway, headed for Victoria on Vancouver Island,  music blaring out of my car stereo (the ragtop was down on the Mustang, so the stereo was turned up full volume) I caught myself singing along and tearing-up a bit, as I remembered Calista singing in her off-key and usually flat voice as she played "Rock Star" in our living room. The song was The Beatles classic ode to their home town, "Penny Lane". The Beatles, for some unknown reason, was Calista's absolute favourite band and she knew the lyrics to the majority of their songs.  Say what you like, while the girl may not have been able to carry the simplest tune, she had great taste in classic rock music.       

I cannot remember exactly when Calista discovered The Beatles. I want to say around when she was 14 years old or so.  I cannot take credit for exposing her to the Fab Four even though they had been a favourite of mine when I was her age (and still are).  I had quite a few Beatles albums on vinyl, but since the days of LP turn-tables were pretty much gone with Carter or Reagan, the black platters had not been spun for decades by the time Calista dug them out of some boxes in the basement one summer.  I distinctly remember having to tell her what an LP was and how it worked and then explain why we were not going to just run out and find a turn-table so she could listen to the records.  I noticed my Willie Nelson collection was left in the box and has since disappeared with all the other junk we have left behind.  The prizes of my collection, a well worn "White Album", a nearly mint "Rarities" collection, the classic "Help", and my brother's "Sgt. Pepper's" album disappeared into her bed-room, secreted away by my little CIA agent in training.

Two weeks later the four albums re-appeared, framed, hung upon her wall between her "Green Day" poster and her "Abbey Road" poster, preserved in cheap black frames from Walmart.  The display was reminiscent of a rock-star's trophy wall, except the albums were obviously heavily used before framing.  Those albums became a permanent fixture on her walls and eventually survived the move to Powell River. They remain hanging in her bedroom to this day, still paired with the classic "Abbey Road" poster and a Beatles "Let It Be" poster, the "White Album" still looking worse for wear with decades of dirt and spilt coffee staining the original pristine white. My brother Ivor had a good laugh when he saw those albums hung there during a visit last spring. He laughed even harder when he realised they actually were relics from our child-hood and the vinyl records were still sitting inside the record jackets encased in those plastic frames.

Roni and I talked this over and neither of us has a clue where Calista's love of The Beatles came from. In fact, throughout her life, Calista's taste in music was so different from ours, that neither of us can take credit or blame for her selection.  Certainly neither of us want to own up for the two year period she loved big-band swing-dance music.  Personally I was a big Beatles fan, but by the time Calista came along my vinyl collection was relegated to boxes hidden in the basement and I still do not have any Beatles albums either on disc or in my iPod.  The CD I have loaded into the Mustang right now is Calista's, found in one of the many boxes filled as we cleaned out her apartment in Courtenay. I distinctly remember buying the "Best Of" collection for her as a Christmas present no so many years ago.

Please don't assume Calista was a rabid fan of any group. She actually had an amazingly eclectic collection of music on CD and stored on her iPod. The majority of the music was independent stuff from a raft of low profile performers, but there was some really awful (my opinion) pop stuff and some exotic Gaelic and Indian music that made me shake my head when I found the selections on her iPod. Traditional Gaelic music on the iPod of a typical western Canadian kid who had never shown any interest in her Welsh and Scottish heritage; wonders never cease. On the other hand, The Beatles were always there in the background, her yardstick against which everything else was measured.

It was not until we bought her the Wii game "Rock Star", Beatles edition for Christmas when she was seventeen that I realised just how much she liked the Beatles.  Roni and I would make fools of ourselves as we tried to play the drums or the guitars that come with the game while Calista would glide through the vocals from the start, scoring nearly 100% on each song. She knew the words to songs I had never heard despite being a die hard fan of the Fab Four throughout my teen-aged years.  I am not sure when or how she learnt all the lyrics to the Beatles music portfolio, but I was suitably impressed by her memory. Not so much her singing; in critical retrospect, Calista likely was a bit tone-deaf, especially when it came to her own voice.

It's telling that she named her beloved Smart Car "Jude", as in "Hey Jude".

Kareen, her good friend from North Island College, honoured both Calista and her love of the Beatles about a month after Calista died. Kareen must have a truly unique, creative mind, because she stumbled on something that I never imagined existed: a star registry (somewhere over in Britain). Calista now has a star named after her:"

Calista's star designation is STARAPP4KDLTNS-39982056, positioned at Right Ascension, 13h16m0.9s and Declination +7degrees8' 42.9". This star is now and forever more called "Calista in the Sky with Diamonds".  I have no idea what all that information means and I could not find that star if my life depended on it, but Kareen covered that problem with a very appropriate quote from the French author Antoine de St. Exupery.

"All men have stars, but they are not the same things for different people.  For some who are travellers, the stars are guides. For others, they are no more than little lights in the sky. For others who are scholars, they are problems....But all these stars are silent.

You, you alone will have stars as no one else has them. In one of those stars I shall be living. In one of them I shall be laughing. And so it will be as if all the stars will be laughing when you look at the sky at night.  You, only you, will have stars that can laugh. 

And when your sorrow is comforted (time soothes all sorrows) you will be content that you have known me. You will always be my friend."

Just the other night, after the sun had set and the village was dark as only Powell River can be, the stars shone bright in the sky. I called Roni out on the elevated cement patio that crosses in front of our house. The cement was still radiating heat absorbed from the day so despite the chill in the air we stood comfortably as we gazed at the twinkling black dome. I told Roni about the St. Exupery quote and pointed up at our laughing sky, claiming no single star as home for my Calista but all of them equally. I could not hear any laughter, but then Calista was so secretive and private, that I doubt she would have graced us with her loud, joyful laugh for fear of giving our mutual secret away.  That night, for me, Calista was in the stars, but she will return to the sea if I ever am lucky enough to see a whale out there.
Kareen: May your stars laugh too


  1. If you have someone with a telescope on an equatorial mount they can put the numbers in and the star will be in that field. It is good to look at stars. As one who was an amateur astronomer at a young age, they can be very comforting. If you go to a place that gives you a large segment of sky, lie on the grass when the stars are out, it gives you the most expansive feeling, as if you are one with the universe and yet travelling within it. We are all star stuff....old recycled star stuff too...and we are a group of molecules studying molecules, we are, essentially, the universe studying itself. Calista and everyone else, never disappear and consciousness returns to the force from which it came as a drop of water returns to the ocean and that is born in the furnaces we call stars. So happy you found them!!!

  2. Roni and I plan on setting up a deck in our yard some distance from the house, where the lights will not interfere with the star gazing, just so we can enjoy the clear night skies in the future.

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