Friday, July 9, 2010

Constellations



It makes me sad every time I think about the truth that there is a whole generation (maybe two by now) of urban people who have rarely - if ever - seen the Milky Way. Every time I find myself away from most of the ambient light of the city, I am in awe of the sky above me. The stars are such a presence! No wonder we humans have always looked to the stars for guidance and inspiration.

Just as we humans adopt each other, I believe we are related to the stars. They adopted us long ago. The stars sing to us, at least that's my experience. I believe that's why, when we look up at the night sky, we automatically see patterns. From those patterns, big, essential stories arise: myths, legends, tales of heroes and lovers and gods.

When I look at photos of the night sky, it's a lot harder to see the constellations. There are, after all (as Carl Sagan always said), billions and billions of stars. But anytime I get out of the city, take the time to let my eyes adjust to the dark, lean my head back and gaze, I see all kinds of evocative shapes. The dots connect. I feel that I am literally drinking (with my eyes), the songs of the stars. Whenever that happens, my relationship to the ancestors of long ago, who had exactly the same sense of awe and interest that I do, is literally palpable. Oh yeah.

I just made arrangements to spend some time at the end of August with a friend in his W. Virginia cabin. In order to see the stars there, you have to either get out from under the forest, up to a meadow close to his house, or get out on the Potomac where not only the stars and Milky Way, but their reflections, are visible.

Yes I love this crazy city where I live, I do. And I am an urban person in so many ways (not in every way). But. I love the stars. Can't wait to see them again. Happy Friday, y'all.


That's the east side of the Capitol on the right side of this pic.

20 comments:

Everton Terrace said...

Oh how I wish I had a friend with a cabin in W. Virginia. It is calming me just to think about it. I remember the first time I really saw the sky bursting with stars. A road trip with my father when I was 13 - we were hours out of the city and I was awestruck. I thought "where have they been hiding all of them?" (grew up in the city). The beauty and infinity of it all boggles my mind.

Reya Mellicker said...

The stars have always helped us. But now that we can't see them, it's harder to hear the songs. It's a shame, truly a shame.

Reya Mellicker said...

The sky definitely does "burst" with stars. Very cool.

Jo Floyd Lucas said...

Beautiful post, Reya. Even here in the suburbia of the Midwest, it's getting harder and harder to see the nightscape.

I LOVED Sagan, and can't believe he's been gone now for over a decade. You might enjoy this piece of his I ran across a few days ago:

http://wimp.com/carlsagan/

Hey, you wouldn't mind about 50 of your closest friends joining you in the wilds of W. Virginia, right?

Reya Mellicker said...

Wimp.com? Of course there HAS to be such a website!

Jo there is no one I would rather be with while floating around on the Potomac River in W. Virginia! My friend's place is right on the river, just outside Shepherdstown, W. Virginia. It's gorgeous and primal and spooky with ghosts and bursting with life force (as well as with stars).

You would love my friends Rod and Tom (the guys who own the cabin). They would love you, too. Yep. Wish you could be there!!

Vicki said...

Down here in the country, I can see stars all the time. You are right it is calming and I love the constellations. My grandkids are learning a lot by stopping and looking at the sky. It might be like "stop and smell the roses".

Lizzy Frizzfrock said...

When I was a child my father & I would sit in the swing at night & look at the stars. He would tell me about each constellation & I was fascinated. Now the G-man & I enjoy going to west Texas to enjoy the dark night sky. Even at the McDonald Observatory in Ft. Davis there is ambient light from a distance that effects ones vision of the night sky. It is truly beautiful. Enjoy W. VA. it is a lovely place & oh, yes the stars are brilliant.

The Bug said...

Hmm - I might have to drag Dr. M off into the countryside in the Bugly this weekend. It has a sun roof! We've never had one before & actually don't really enjoy the sun beating down on our heads. But it could be a moon roof for us! And we'd be in the car in case we needed a quick getaway from a farmer with a shotgun :)

Reya Mellicker said...

The moon is dark this weekend - perfect for star gazing.

I'll be gazing at cardboard boxes full of my stuff this weekend - not as beautiful, but an exciting thing to look at.

ellen abbott said...

That's one of the reasons I loved the river trips so much, being way out away from any and all city or even small town lights. The sky was just awesome. I remember one trip, a friend brought night vision glasses. Out there the sky was just brilliant with stars but there were still dark spaces. I looked at the sky with those goggles and those dark spaces were filled with pin pricks of light!

There are still lights out at the country house, a street light and some people have sodium lights they keep on all night but it is still much darker than the city and I see so many more stars.

lakeviewer said...

You'll be re-inspired! Enjoy.

Reya Mellicker said...

Wow, Ellen, wow. You saw into deep space. You were looking back in time, literally. Wow.

John Hayes said...

I'm a country dweller who really feels more at home in the urban setting--but one thing I love about the country is the night sky. If I could only stay up late enough in the summer to see it!

Liza said...

I believe we are related to the stars as well Reya.

"I feel that I am literally drinking (with my eyes)"
I LOVE THAT!

Happy Friday to you as well Reya.

Tom said...

hahaha--your picture makes me laugh--it's terrific. Hope the woods are cooler than the city; ack.

ewix said...

You should have come to sit on the roof in Marrakesh!!!!
Stars galore.

I just read yesterday's post
about adoption
something I'm rather keen on.
I love the word adopt

a life style
a child
to take on board
willingly



so sad about the evil spammer
I had a nasty person write
no one ever wants to see a silly red tug boat.....!!!
how batty is that....
oxox

Cyndy said...

I still remember the first time I saw actual stars up in the sky. I was seven years old and had just gotten glasses for the first time. My parents couldn't believe it when I looked up and asked "Are those stars?"

Kerry said...

From our backyard we seem to see the stars pretty well in the summer months when the skies are cloudless in Oregon. I love it. But then we go backpacking in the Cascades & I realize, wow, we've only been seeing maybe 60% of them. What else have I been missing? A lot, I bet!

Steve Reed said...

Good for you. The secret to urban living is getting away from it now and then.

I've never been able to make sense of constellations, and I grew up in an area where I could see the Milky Way clearly. I do appreciate that humans could employ their imaginations so thoroughly in viewing the night sky, though.

Pauline said...

I like the idea of the stars singing. I don't think I could live long without seeing the stars or being in an open meadow with the birds or leaning against a tree deep in the woods. I've been in cities for visits but leave as soon as is politely possible. I envy you (slightly) your city ease but not to the point of learning it ;)