Satellites and Synchronicities
A new play prompts thoughts about family, stories, grief, and space
I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about how to tell personal stories lately. I’ve recently begun work on a memoir about depression, walking, and mental health, so I’m curious to see how other people have told the stories of their and others’ lives. How can we knit together a life or lives into a whole that makes sense when the world doesn’t guarantee us the neat resolutions or rewriting of fiction? How much can we trust the patterns we find when they’ve not been placed there by an author, but are just the random chance of the universe? Is there ever any real synchronicity, or just humans finding patterns in things that aren’t there?
Last night, looking for an answer to this question took me first to a Zoom class discussing creative non-fiction, then pulled me out of that for a dash across town to the Arts Centre and then almost two million years in the future to somewhere near Aldebaran where Pioneer 10 is reaching its destination at the start of Natalie Songer’s new work, Satellites. It was an easy synchronicity of those two events overlapping for me on the same evening.
It’s a bold story that takes that distant point as its starting point, but it’s a device to lodge that moment of wonder in our memories throughout the play. It’s a message that long after we’re gone, maybe not all our stories will be forgotten, that tiny specks of light like Pioneer 10 will still be carrying a part of us out to the stars.
(In another of those synchronicities, the musical shuffle on my run this morning delivered up the Doves song of the same name with its refrain of “satellites ahead, hold on”)
The play is about family and the stories they tell to make sense of our past and understand where we came from. It’s based on Songer’s own journey to explore the Dutch side of her family, focused on her two great-great-uncles, Cor and Tom. They’re the oldest and youngest of their generation, born in the first decades of the twentieth century and finding their dreams of celestial navigation broken apart by the war. Both struggle against the Nazi occupation of their country, but only one of them makes it through to the other side of the war.