• Sky Scrolls story submission by Angela Holder for the Buffalo Soldiers National Museum, 2020:

    What is the night sky to the Buffalo Soldier? Some of the soldiers had been slaves. The stars were a reminder of “freedom in Heaven” for which they prayed to escape their earthly bonds. For others, the stars had guided their steps to freedom in the light of the North Star. Some of the soldiers had been part of the USCT (United States Colored Troops) during the Civil War and the stars gave them peace and solace after a day’s battle. After the war, the soldiers’ mission changed and they would help develop the West as “Buffalo Soldiers.” In their encounters with Native Americans, the soldiers were taught the stories of the people’s creation as pointed out among the stars. The buffalo, bow, arrows, and other life-sustaining elements were honored among the stars. The stars are forever and so was their reverence. The shooting stars of the Plains skies entertained the soldiers as they remembered the stories from elders about the ancestors (stars) looking down on them. This was comforting to them as they fell asleep under the watchful eyes of the “ancestors/stars.” Using the stars and constellations as “guides”, the Buffalo Soldiers successfully navigated the unique terrain of the West and developed its potential.

  • Sky Scrolls story submission by Chiara Strani, 2021:

    Essere presente ora. Semplicemente, essere. Non dobbiamo fare niente.
    Essere è uno stato di consapevolezza. Essere porta consapevolezza. Essere consapevoli è essere Testimone della mente. Il Testimone non pensa, guarda i pensieri che vanno e vengono. Il Testimone non ha emozioni: è in grado di osservare le emozioni apparire e scomparire.
    Piuttosto che vedere, udire, odorare, gustare o toccare, il Testimone osserva sguardi, suoni, odori, sapori e sensazioni che avvengono e finiscono.
    Il Testimone non sceglie e non facendo alcuna scelta, osserva le scelte che vengono fatte.
    Il Testimone è luminosa auto-consapevolezza.
    Essere luminoso è irradiare luce. La luce non è solo una metafora della Coscienza, del Testimone, dell’osservatore. Proprio come il sole è separato da ciò che illumina, così la Coscienza, il Testimone, può essere distinta da ciò che è osservato.
    La consapevolezza luminosa è il riconoscimento di quel vasto spazio luminoso di energia cosciente, che è al tempo stesso immanente e trascendente da ogni manifestazione, da cui tutto emana e in cui tutto si dissolve: pensieri, emozioni, cose viste, ascoltate, assaggiate, odorate e toccate.
    Il riconoscimento di questo flusso immobile è il cuore della consapevolezza.
    È il percorso verso il riconoscimento del Sé, il cuore, il fondamento dell’essere.
    Questa consapevolezza è fuori dal tempo. È sempre stata e sempre sarà.
    Questa consapevolezza trascende lo spazio, non ha confini, è ovunque.
    Tu stesso, Io sono, tutti noi siamo effulgente consapevolezza. Riesci a riconoscerlo? Lo ricordi?

  • Sky Scrolls story submission by Rikki Ducornet, 2014:

    I lived in Algeria from 1964-1966, and have brooded ever since over the horror of what happened there–the horror that continues to shape the present for us all. In the winter of 64-65, my then-husband and I hitchhiked from Constantine- in the north- to the southern oases of Biskra, Touggourt, and Ouargla, where we were picked up by a truck driver who had been tortured for weeks with live electric wire. The burns had left a kind of indigo script at the corners of his nostrils, his mouth and eyes, and in the delicate hollows beneath his ears. He told us that throughout his ordeal, he had refused to speak. And that now it pleased him to eat and sleep “in his own time.” He was carrying baryte- a kind of barium used in the making of cement- to an American oil rig deep in the desert, at an unnamed place between Hassi Ben Harrane and Temassin. In the middle of the night, he left the road to navigate by the stars. I recall that the lights from the rig became visible hours before we reached it and that no oil had been found. They were digging in six hundred meters of salt.


  • Design concept and drawings for the spiral forms created for the 3D visualization of the Sky Scrolls stories.

    Blumenfeld worked in collaboration with Michael Gonzales, Mario Medina Vilela, and Francisco Arevalo of Protolab Architects to create the spiral designs that were used for both the etched crystal sphere for the Houston District D Constellation sculpture and the interactive 3D visualization for all stories submitted to the Sky Scrolls website.

  • Sky Scrolls: Houston District D Constellation
    4 x 4 inches
    Etched solid crystal glass sphere
    Sky Scrolls story submission by Sophie Asakura, 2020:
    In eighth grade, I was swallowed up by the sky. On a church trip to the hill country, I dragged a rocking chair into a clearing and sat in it upside down. I devoted my attention to the milky way and it wrapped me in its arms. It wasn’t like my experiences of movies and media about space. In those moments, space felt icy and vacant, uncaring. On that night, I got lost in the stars and the night sky fixated my energy on something larger. It felt like being swept up in a crowd, a surging mass where smallness is not insignificance. I was tumbling through the first of many depressive episodes and the invasive vine of dark thoughts that crept up my neck and settled in my brain was convincing me of my lack of worth. In a gesture that can only be described as masochism, I chose to look up at the stars, expecting the cold weight of confirmation that I did not matter. Instead, they held me tight and whispered that I was made of stardust and that this too shall pass; that if their light could reach me over light years of space, maybe even after their death, that I too could find a place to shine. 
  • Sky Scrolls: Houston District D Constellation
    4 x 4 inches
    Etched solid crystal glass sphere

    Sky Scrolls story submission by Lars Stoltzfus-Brown, 2020:

    We had just met, firmly in the phase of nervous energy, starry-eyed. On our second date, we talked as the sun set and the crisp winter sky deepened with the onset of night; we could have stayed there for hours if not for the cold. The soft turning over of day into night- with the first stars dotting a still-purple sky- holds cherished memories. Meandering through a sculpture garden in D.C. just as the sun faded behind monuments, we walked and laughed under the dark grey city sky, enjoying each other’s voices and warmth. As our relationship grew, so too did our moments of quotidian joy when discovering shared appreciativeness of nature, like Ira pointing out the beauty of a full moon rising through the trees or Troy gazing at the stars as we chatted outdoors. A rhythm marked our time together: waxing and waning moons, Orion traveling slowly across the sky, endless small conversations about a bright star or rising moon where I would place my head on your shoulder or stand close to you, leaning against the windowsill. Right before we left State College, we had a picnic in a nearby park. The muggy summer nights had brought with them scores of fireflies, gently flickering earthbound stars. We welcomed their presence and the way they were attuned to twilight, waking up just as the stars did. During our picnic dusk fell and fireflies surrounded us, giving us a farewell to quiet Pennsylvania nights. When we arrived to Houston, though, new sunsets greeted us as we listened to cicadas from the balcony and basked in this new view of night falling, arms wrapped around each other. I am looking forward to our adventures as we continue building a life together. There are so many late-night conversations to be had under winter stars; strolls to take at twilight; lazy cuddling to do on our balcony as we point out constellations. I am elated and grateful to share my future with you both, and love you so much. Troy and Ira, Ira and Troy, thank you for being my people.



    A community-embedded public artwork


    In 2019, Houston-based Transdisciplinary Artist, Erika Blumenfeld, received a public art award from the inaugural Houston-wide initiative called Insta11ations, which would feature 11 newly commissioned art experiences for each of Houston’s 11 districts. Insta11ations is a project of the City of Houston Mayor’s Office of Cultural Affairs and Art League Houston, with funding made available through Houston Arts Alliance. Blumenfeld’s proposal was selected for Houston’s District D.


    Blumenfeld proposed a new work, Sky Scrolls: Houston District D Constellation, from her evolving Sky Scrolls series, which intended to activate the Houston community’s awareness and connection with the view of the universe under Houston’s urban night sky. Blumenfeld’s intent was to collect personal narratives from District D residents that shared their experiences gazing up at the stars. 15 stories from the District D community would be etched inside a 4-inch sphere of solid crystal glass in one of several spiral designs inspired by galaxy forms.


    In her original proposal, these glass spheres were to be set into a fabricated steel “star wall” and installed in a District D public park in April 2020. However, the global shutdown due to the pandemic led many of the participating Insta11ation artists to reinterpret their projects to meet the unprecedented moment. In consideration of the many challenges that public spaces were facing due to Covid-19 lockdowns at the time she was intending to install the artwork, Blumenfeld felt inspired to reimagine the piece: she would instead install the Sky Scrolls crystal glass sculpture directly within the community itself.


    “Working on this project while watching our communities face new and unfamiliar challenges, both in terms of in-person engagement and interacting within public spaces, I felt that I must shift the direction of my project’s installation. I believe that public art must be in service to the public in some way. By reimaging the work as a free interactive public sculpture that is embedded within the community itself, the piece becomes a conceptual constellation of our individual and shared experiences under the stars, and a way to connect to each other through the power of story in this time of isolation.”


    Each of the 15 stories that were submitted from District D were etched into a crystal sphere and were gifted directly to the story’s authors. The relative placement of each sphere within the District D community was charted and the cumulative locations were symbolically plotted to create a conceptual constellation of the stories as an artwork within the community. The Sky Scrolls: Houston District D Constellation visualization (shown above) is a drawing that documents the sculpture as a whole, where each story becomes a star within a singular community constellation.

  • Sky Scrolls story submission by Olivera Jankovska, 2020

    Two days before my 8th birthday in 1994, I walked outside behind my old building where I lived. It was dusk and when I looked on the sandy ground, I saw my bare feet covered in dust making them appear like they belong to a ghost who somehow forgot to trim their nails. I could see through my worn-out skirt as the light made shadows on the ground where I stood. I could hear my hungry belly as it rumbled fighting to complete for attention with my mind rushing with the usual thoughts: ‘I will make it out, I just need to continue studying and working really hard’. At one point I looked up the sky as I thought I saw some sparks or lights. I am sure it was just a plane passing by or a comet, but my mind refused to believe that it was just the ordinary. I decided that the light I saw was my star that just got born for me. There I was in split-second believing that I have found my omen and that I was blessed to ‘succeed out of poverty’. I marked the ground where I stood and promised to come back to greet my star each time I reached a milestone in life. And just like that I believed I am here to make a difference in the world and that thought pursued me for the next 28 years. It still does today. Although I am far away from the ground where I marked to stand and celebrate my achievements with my special star, I believe it follows me as I see a reflection of a special spark in my eyes when I win. I hope one day my shine will brighten up someone else’s sky too, and bring about their special star to inspire them to seek the ‘extraordinary’ in the ordinary.

  • Sky Scrolls story submission by Margaux Crump, 2020:

    Whenever I think of the day I promised to love you forever, I think of the night we saw the deer and the stars become one.

    The cool November air touched the surface of the warm pool, creating the dense landscape of steam we swam through. Alone in the dark, our moonlit bodies floated toward the glass wall at the edge of the water. As our eyes adjusted to the expanse of the night, the sky filled with stars, but so too did the land before us. Bright luminescing orbs began to appear in the field as hundreds of deer eyes met our distant porch light. Flickering in and out of existence as they grazed, their eyes perforated the darkness like an earthly stream of stars. As time passed, the terrestrial and celestial stars seemed to merge, creating a continuous constellation of twinkling light bodies in the night.

    When we let the quiet of the moment hold us and direct our gaze upwards, the stars began to fall. Again and again and again; they shot across the sky with blazing tails tracing their paths. And then we heard them. Long dry sizzles that broke the spell of the night as we realized we were witnessing the sounds that stars make when they touch our atmosphere.

    We sat in this place of wonder where deer became stars and stars became deer, where the silent sky became alive with sounds we never knew existed, and we fell more in love with the world than ever before.

  • Sky Scrolls story submission by Jake Eshelman, 2020:

    He lost his home when the divorce turned sour. I was three when my mother and I were displaced to live with my grandparents. It was no place for a German shepherd, and I was crushed to leave him behind with friends a couple of doors down. I asked to see Bo every day. And we visited often, but not enough.

    He was too smart to be kept in a cage, and so he made a frequent habit of breaking free and showing up at my grandparents’ house many miles away. He would always find me, and someone would always take him back.

    At night, I asked my mom to tell bedtime stories about The Adventures of Jake and His Good Dog Bo. Some of them were true; the time he saved my life, or the time he accompanied me as I walked the countryside as a toddler when my father was supposed to watch me. Then, there were the imaginative stories of the things we’d do in the future when we were finally reunited.

    I would often lay awake and think of him. One night, I noticed three stars aligned outside my bedroom window. It was uncanny: a collar. Then I noticed his nose. His ears. His eyes. Every night from then on, I’d fall asleep with Bo watching over me from the stars.


    Fearful of the unaccompanied German shepherd that frequently trotted across their property, neighbors began to complain. It was decided that it would be best for Bo to live on the family farm up in Pennsylvania, which was three hours away by car.

    It wasn’t feasible to visit. I consoled myself with a vision of him running free on several acres of farmland, and the thought that I could see him in the night sky. I remember the day the phone rang. A group of road workers on I-83 saw a German shepherd trotting through their construction zone, with high-speed highway traffic on either side. He was heading south, back to me. They greeted him, made some phone calls, and took him back up to the farm. It even made the paper.

    Some months later, I came home from school eager to show my mom what I did in class. Our assignment was to make a wish and write about it. She was on the phone when I walked in, so I quietly interrupted to show her my drawing. It was me and Bo playing in front of our new house. More than anything, I wished for Bo to come back and live with us. On the other end of the line, my aunt had just shared the news that Bo was hit by a semi on the road next to the farm and had died on the scene.

    Almost 30 years later, I still see Bo watching over me from the night sky. His constellation, with his attentive eye and three-starred collar, will always guide me in ways Orion and his belt never could.

  • Sky Scrolls story submission by Christopher Snead, 2020:

    I remember, on one particular evening of my childhood, my father suggested that we go for a drive. This seemed strange to me, as it was close to my bedtime; but I was never one to turn down a road trip, no matter how late or brief. My father drove us to Topanga Canyon in Los Angeles, close to the Pacific Ocean. He found a nice, dark road, pulled off to the side, and rolled back the sunroof. The sky was much darker and filled with more stars than I was used to seeing from our home. Then, I saw a bright streak of light across the sky…then another. I had never seen such a thing before, and was very excited to see one or two of these luminous trails appear every minute. I was witnessing my very first meteor shower. My father must have seen a report about the Perseids on the evening news; knowing that I was very interested in all things related to the cosmos, he reasoned that a little stargazing was worth me staying up a bit past my bedtime. What he didn’t know, however, is how that little excursion would ultimately relate to my future career. The meteors seen during showers are streaks of light produced by dust from the tail of a comet as the particles enter our atmosphere. I’ve spent the past 20 years of my life involved in the study of those cosmic dust particles that have been collected in the stratosphere, and by a NASA spacecraft that have flown through the tail of a comet. Neither I nor my father I could have imagined that spontaneous childhood stargazing excursion would have related so closely to my life’s work.

  • Sky Scrolls story submission by Cira Felina Bolla, 2014:

    I was visiting one of my dearest friends during her artist-in-residence in 2004. It would mark my first time in Marfa, TX. I loved it and instantly felt at home. A quiet town on the outside but brimming with new circles of creative explorations within. One evening at dusk we set out to the McDonald Observatory nearby. As we were driving in—on the approach up the windy hill—dusk soon slipped away and she had to turn off our head lights to protect the skies from light pollution. When we reached the remote viewing spot where her telescope was, we paused to enjoy the crisp desert air and a glass of wine outside. I sat back with a resounding Ahhhh and in that moment I looked up at the vast sky only to see this magnificent and magical array of lights. It consumed me with its magic and I turned to Erika and asked, “What is that? ” as I pointed to the mass of star formations that took my breath away and left me feeling deeply connected to the ancientness of our planet. Erika turned to me with a smile and said, ” That’s The Milky Way. “

Sky Scrolls:

Sky Scrolls is an evolving archive of our stories of the stars. Since 2014, I have been collecting star stories from the public, which has culminated in an interactive website that accepts story submissions and then archives the growing collection of stories. Each submitted story becomes a 3D visualization where the words form one of several spiral designs inspired by galaxy types. I also create artworks and installations from the stories. The intent of the project is to collect thousands of written stories from people of all ages and in any language that recount their personal and heartfelt experiences while stargazing and share what it meant to them at that moment in their lives. Tremendous, thoughtful, and deeply moving stories have been submitted from people all over the globe, illuminating the incredible significance our view of the cosmos has on our lives.

From the moment humans began sharing in the power of story, we have shared in stories of the stars. Some of the earliest carvings, stone circles, and cave art—dating tens and even hundreds of thousands of years—depict supernovas, comets, constellations, lunar cycles, and accurate star charts. Gazing up at the starry universe has sparked awe and wonder across time, giving rise to worldviews, cosmologies, and traditions, motivating art, literature, and architecture, and guiding traditional knowledge, philosophies, and science. As far back as we can see in the material remains of our species’ lineage, cultures have looked to the stars to answer some of the most fundamental human questions, whether to locate and understand our place in the universe or to reflect on the meaning of our lives.

Our stories are the cultural evidence of what we hold as meaningful in our hearts and minds and sharing them allows for a kind of social remembering. Story roots us in personal, social, and cultural experiences and has the ability to move beyond time and place. Studies in neuroscience have shown what traditional knowledge and cultural making practices have known since their onset: that story can guide us toward empathy, social justice, and personal transformation. When telling our story to others, the part of the brain that regulates moral sensibilities and empathy is illuminated in both speaker and listener.  The constellations of our stories are as wondrous as the constellations of the stars.

I’ve been a longtime stargazer and advocate for dark sky preservation. In 2013, I began researching and writing about the many deleterious effects that light pollution is having on our view of the universe and why that matters (for a brief interview from 2014 with The Cultural Landscape Foundation on my thoughts about dark sky stewardship click here). My research made clear that nurturing our relationship with the starry night—and preserving and restoring the natural night—is critical to the health of all Earth’s systems. To achieve natural and cultural sustainability we must enter into a dialogue about those things that threaten our cultural wellbeing, ecological stability, species biodiversity, and biological health. The research on the vanishing night sky indicates that each of these is in peril due to our over-illumination of the night, and go beyond the tangible, visible effects—the veiling of the night sky also threatens the more intangible aspects of our cultural continuity and traditional knowledge as well. As a diverse and creative species, if we lack a view of the universe, a view that has connected us with a sense of awe and left an imprint of wonder on our hearts and minds, what part of us wanes?

In marking our current personal, social, national, and global moment through our stories under the waxing and waning of our Moon’s light, under the rare glimpse of a passing comet, under the breathtaking surprise of a bright falling meteor, under the imaginative constellations that shift seasonally in the sky and under the orbits of the planets we share the solar system with… stars and story can be reflections of each other.

Stargazing is something we can do from our backyards, front stoop, rooftop, or windows. Whether in solitude or with your quarantine circle, stargazing can connect us even when we are apart. Looking up at the stars together, our eyes become their own constellation of stars, for every time we look up at the stars our eyes are literally absorbing starlight photons into our bodies. A part of the star’s own story meets yours in the very moment you gaze upward at them. Will you meet me under the stars?

–Erika Blumenfeld


Visit the Sky Scrolls website, to read the growing collection of stories—and please consider adding your own story to the archive!