Monday, September 9, 2013

Seeing Stars

A constellation of candles, left over after dinner.

Where we stayed, on the west shore of the lake, halfway between the villages of Cananadiagua at the north end, and Naples at the south end, we were in the boonies. We were at least a half hour drive from anything except other little houses tucked into the mountain facing the water. It was rather farther away from civilization than I prefer.

The moon was dark, we were in the boonies, and after the first night, the sky was mostly clear. There were stars.

After dinner we blew out all the candles, turned out all the lights in the condo and sat patiently on the porch, waiting for our eyes to adjust. I timed it the last night. It took a half hour before my eyes stopped noticing new stars. Adjusting to the light was part of the magic of those star spangled skies. It was as if new stars were twinkling into existence.

One thing I noticed is that when I can see many many many many stars, it's harder for me to pick out the constellations. There are so many dots out there; well, you could connect them any of a number of ways. Usually when I can see the stars, it's just a few of them, just the bright markers in the familiar constellations. But the skies at Canandaigua were full of stars. I gave up trying to locate constellations and instead gazed mostly at the Milky Way.

When I was at Lake Tahoe a few years ago, I could see our galaxy, but it was faint as there was a sizeable moon that week. Prior to that the last time I saw it was from inside the circle of stones at Avebury. That was sometime in the early 2,000s.

I did not take this picture, but it looked like this.

As kids we saw it often. Now I hardly ever see it which is such a shame. The sight creates in everyone - really everyone! - jaw-dropping wonder. I despair to think of the people alive right now who grew up in cities and have never seen the Milky Way. They are deprived of something essential to our humanity, a birthright of every being on this planet. Dung beetles navigate by the light of the Way. There are stories and myths about it all over the world. It's depressing to think of the people who have, no doubt, seen pictures of it, but never the real deal.

The extended family of Brother Sun was vivid at the lake. Besides blueish white, I saw gold and even a fierce kind of violet color in the thickest parts of it. I kept saying, Hello Galactic Center! Hello! What I heard in response sounded like Nielsen's 4th symphony. It was loud but beautiful and harmonious. The galaxy definitely sings. It was almost unbearably beautiful.

Every night after dinner I opened my eyes, looked up. The Milky Way poured into my brain, I swear it did. I feel certain that what I received from the experience of seeing a vivid sky thick with stars will make me wiser, kinder and more inspired.

It's possible I took in a little too much, like a starving woman who suddenly happens upon a banquet. You can't blame me, though, can you?

That's reflected sunlight on the water just after sunrise.



ellen abbott said...

oh, I know what you mean. I've said the same thing about people. It's quite possible that generations of city dwellers have never seen the Milky Way. I haven't seen it in all it's glory since I quit river guiding. Even out here in the country, while I can see many more stars than I could in the city, I can't really see the Milky Way. I can see hints of it sometimes but there is still too much light pollution. The outskirts of fourth largest city are really only about a half hour away.

Reya Mellicker said...

Out in the boonies it is 3-D. Incredible.

The Bug said...

We live in a little town so we have plenty of light pollution anyway, and our neighbor has a VERY bright security light so that kills any chance of really seeing the stars.

I keep telling Mike we should drive out into the country & park in a cornfield one night. He's worried about farmers with guns. Silly guy :)

Reya Mellicker said...

He is silly. You should do it!

Pam said...

Watched one of those programs recently where out of control teens are sent to tackle the wilderness for months on end. I firmly believe sleeping under the stars and the awe it inspires is healing and necessary. So many are out of touch with this.
I miss this aspect the most with city living and loved hearing about it from you.