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Death Transformed - the Song of the Star-Gazing Wanderer

Updated on March 1, 2013
Front range of northern Colorado near Rocky Mountain National Park
Front range of northern Colorado near Rocky Mountain National Park

Continuity of Life After Death

In a recorded cassette letter, Mark told of sitting on a high ridge at sunset, writing songs and playing guitar.

A few weeks later, Mark was hit by a drunk driver and died at age seventeen.

The words of the song were found in his room. He called it Stargazing Wanderer.

While the story seems sad or tragic to some, there is also enormous beauty in the larger picture, the higher purpose of Life. It carries a message of the continuity of life beyond death, and that humans are attuned to the ultimate mysteries when they relax and allow their innate true nature to arise.


A hard tapping on the camper window awakened me in the middle of the night. Roused from a deep sleep, the news was given that my younger brother was dead.

The next days were a blur as I drove out of the Maine woods. There were flights from Bangor to Boston and Boston to Denver, and a bus ride north to Fort Collins. I felt nothing.

In the gathering of grieving family and friends, the air was heavy with pain and sorrow. It all seemed so unreal, just a nightmare from which I would awaken.

Mark had recently sent a cassette tape letter saying he would visit me in Maine at the end of the summer. How could it be that he was gone?

Over the past year, we had become close as friends and brothers and were just coming to a place of being able to share deeply with each other.

Then I saw him in the open casket and my heart shattered. Tears came in a torrent.

After the burial, when the immediate family huddled together in a mountain home, I was again struck by the hard pain of loss and had to get up and walk outside. Someone came to find me and I broke down and cried, “He’s gone. He’s really gone.”

Life moved on, though, and I returned to Maine. The first night back was dark and moonless, which matched my mood. Walking on a lonely country road, the weight of my heart slowed my steps.

Finding the Song

When our parents were going through Mark’s belongings in his room, they came across his handwriting on a single sheet of paper. It was titled “Stargazing Wanderer.” All who read it were taken aback by the words. It sounded prophetic.

Mark had mentioned in his tape letter hiking to a ridge in the front range foothills of Colorado near Rocky Mountain National Park, hearing coyotes howl, seeing a beautiful sunset, playing guitar and being inspired to write songs. While copying the tape to send to family members, I listened to it again.

He told of working that summer with the Youth Conservation Corps in the northern Colorado Rockies. On his time off, he played guitar and wrote songs.

One night he hiked up to a ridge about a mile and a quarter away from the camp and sat down to do a little stargazing. He was amazed to hear the coyotes. There would be a really soft howl and barking in the distance and then it would echo in the hill across the ridge.

Another evening up on the mountain, he was inspired by an especially beautiful sunset. He started writing, “The mountain is conquered, my sky is red. Peaceful giant, and nothin’s said. Stargazing wanderer is what I am.”

He worked out guitar chords for the song and shared in his tape letter that he had enjoyed it, though it was harder to write.

When I read his inspired words, I felt he had opened himself through nature’s beauty to the depth of Source within. The more I read his words and listened to his tape, the more deeply his message went. Mark still speaks to me through his tape letter and handwritten song and I meet him there, in the life beyond death, where his soul is arisen and his being is free.

Stargazing Wanderer

The mountain is conquered,
my sky is red.

Peaceful giant,
and nothin’s said.

Star-gazing wanderer is what I am.
Eternal heaven grasps my mind

and carries it to a starburst field of flowers.
Can’t count the hours.

And the ebony god grants a vision,
my soul is arisen.

Flightless clouds in timeless night
suspend me with them.

Such unearthly delight is mine.
Perhaps a sign.

Silver threads of a golden dream surround me.
My being will be free.

- Mark Jonathan Smith


In the year 2000, the writer changed his life and moved from the southeast corner of America to the northwest.

His search for community led him to Ashland, Oregon.

Through synchronicity, he met a German family who had literally sold the farm in Spain and come to America on a spiritual quest.

The Germans, knowing very little English, landed in San Diego and wandered through the southwest before arriving in Ashland the same week as Gary.

They met at a gathering of healers.

A year later, Gary and Kati were married.

Gary's older brother Alan died at age 19 when his car went off a mountain road. His younger brother Mark died nine years later at age 17.

Kati's sons from her previous marriage are Arne and Marc. They were 18 and 14 when Gary and Kati met. Arne and Marc are now to Gary like sons and brothers.

Star-Gazing Wanderer

Collage by the Hubwriter
Collage by the Hubwriter
Mark Jonathan Smith, 1957 - 1974
Mark Jonathan Smith, 1957 - 1974

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    • Docmo profile image

      Mohan Kumar 5 years ago from UK

      I'm struck by the journey that transcends those terrible events into something higher, finds a path of beauty and stillness among the chaos and doubt about the transience of life. I love your brothers spirit and poetry. It is a gift he has left behind not only for your family but for all of us. Thank you for sharing a beautiful message. ...

    • CR Rookwood profile image

      Pamela Hutson 5 years ago from Moonlight Maine

      Beautifully written hub, and what a beautiful song. I've been thinking a lot lately about how none of us gets out of here alive, and I was moved by your reminder that death is a passage, not an ending. All the best to you and your brother too.

    • Emanate Presence profile image

      Gary R. Smith 5 years ago from the Head to the Heart

      Hi Denise, thanks again for connecting and expressing! Yes, Ashland left an indelible mark on our lives. After meeting there, at a gathering of healers, we had to decide where to go from America as Kati was on a tourist visa. We returned to the Idaho wilderness where I'd spent the summer 33 years before, to fast and pray for direction. Those are stories on their own. I have Mark's tape letter in which he talks about writing the song, and also a recording done by a choir in Fort Collins, Colorado where they put his lyrics to hymn-like music. I would enjoy hearing it also sung with guitar.

    • Denise Handlon profile image

      Denise Handlon 5 years ago from North Carolina

      Beautiful recount of the love in your life, influences on your Being, and the amazing path of healing. Ashland, OR has a special spiritual energy. I have been there several times with spiritual teachers. I had been following a spiritual teacher by the name of Gangaji who lives in Ashland with her husband and offers workshops.

      The song that your younger brother wrote is beautiful. I'm wondering if you ever thought to get a recording made of it? I'm so glad that you found a deep resonance with the tape of his voice. I have a tape of my late husband's voice that I cherish. Take care...thank you for sharing this deeply personal part of your life. :)

    • B. Leekley profile image

      Brian Leekley 5 years ago from Kalamazoo, Michigan, USA

      Nice hub.

    • Emanate Presence profile image

      Gary R. Smith 5 years ago from the Head to the Heart

      Thank you both for your comments on 'Authenticity and the Art of Life', which I moved to The Hub 'Star-Gazing Wanderer' was encouraged by the article of a fellow hubber and your responses to my earlier writing.

    • pringoooals profile image

      Karina 5 years ago from Edinburgh

      Really great hub. Well done!

    • kashmir56 profile image

      Thomas Silvia 5 years ago from Massachusetts

      WOW i love the was you have sculpt this hub, you have taking words and tamed them to say what you need them to say, and done it so beautifully.

      Vote up and more !!! SHARING !