Saturday, February 07, 2015
Winter Sky: Nighttime
So. Last night was the night of the big moon - the first and last one for several years. In spite of good intentions I forgot to go out and see it at sunset. I missed it. At 9:45 p.m. I walked into the kitchen and found it flooded with moonlight. I scooted away a chair and looked out the back window: "Hello, beautiful old friend." (The moon and I go way back. Way back.) Ah, the memories she stirred in me, the cool moonlight.
Not all memories are moonlit; some nights didn't need the moon. I wish you could see what I see. To do so you will have to go with me… back in time, almost seventy years ago to a rural area where winter’s nighttime skies are extraordinary by today’s standards.
There to a place where the air is so cold it smells and tastes bitter, and it makes your face glow so cold and red it sends your blood rushing warm through your body.
Walk with me where the grass clothed with ice and frost complains underfoot with each step we take. First a step up, then down, feel the slight resistance, then the snap of the grass landing your foot on the frost-heaved sod so honeycombed by frost and freezing that it gives way underfoot with a definite sound of crunch, crunch, with every step, crunch. Not easy walking, but it is that time of year.
It is dark; we go our way by starlight to the barn to check on the animals just to be sure they are alright. We hear them moving about slightly; the sound of munching meets us as we go inside where their body heat has warmed the stalls some. Their breath is steamy; the lips of one flutter with strong exhaling, acknowledging our presence. They stamp in protest of the cold. Sleepy sounds, mostly quiet, they are okay for tonight. They are enjoying their extra ration of hay. Add more straw to the floor, pile it high in hopes it will help them be warmer. Close the barn door as you leave, slip the wire loop over the post, you are going back out into the winter night. Drink the silence.
By now well adjusted to the night, your watery eyes enjoy the cold and humbling beauty, how beautiful the heavens where stars appear to be just beyond fingertips if you should reach toward them. Endless variety of sizes, many large, many huge, and dazzling bright as they appear to be suspended in various heights and depths between you and the soft- plush-looking night sky, a night sky surprisingly bright with an awing milky-way splashed like whitewash across an unbelievable space. It is not easy to tear yourself away, to leave it, and go back indoors where the spell will be broken. No lantern, flashlight, or torch needed here where the air is so pure and clear… and unpolluted by artificial lights.
"Insulated from the natural world, few of us nowadays stand silent beneath a starry sky that remains unblemished by artificial light. Yet the eternal nightly show is one of nature's most subtle and moving experiences.
It is a spectacle that arrives slowly, changes gradually and then slips imperceptibly away, night after night, year after year, in utter silence. It is an experience our ancestors knew well, and it provoked in them, as it should in us, deep questions of meaning, of origins and of destiny."(1.) (David Malin)
“We are made of stardust. It’s not just a poetic sentiment; it’s a fact. In a young universe built mostly from hydrogen and helium, the self-immolation of stars in supernovas forged almost all the other chemical elements and spewed them into space. Over time, they congealed into other stars and solar systems, and eventually into life itself. So, in a sense, the urge to understand stars is woven into the fabric of human existence.”(2.) (Karen Wright)
Preserve the night sky: http://www.darksky.org/
Hubble Site: http://hubblesite.org/
From a cell in an oak leaf to our universe:
(I have forgotten how to do footnotes.)
1. From: The Invisible Universe By: David Malin, Publisher: Little,Brown, 1999.
2. Karen Wright, “We Are Made of Stardust”
Discover, Jan. 2000 by Karen Wright
From Discover via Reader’s Digest, Nov. 2000, pp. 83