Several years ago, in a rural area in Nicaragua, someone introduced me to the Milky Way. My guide to the universe, a professional photographer who just happened to be in that same area, pointed out what I’d never seen before—an arc of stars above my head. Maybe I never noticed that arc before that moment because I spend so much time amidst the light pollution of the city. Only with assistance and complete darkness did I realize I could visually observe the celestial neighborhood where my planet lives. The absence of light is what made those bodies so vibrant to me, helping them to reveal themselves to us earth-bound observers as they maintained the rough alignment of their orbits, as if we were looking at the side view of a very thick and luminescent plate.
The skies fascinate just about all of us, I’m sure. No matter where we live, in the city or a place of spectacular natural beauty, our eyes can always turn upwards. Earthly lights may obscure that view, except for that evening every year when cities turn off those lights to reveal what’s above. Proposals are regularly floated to minimize urban lights and the pollution they cause every night, especially during bird migration season. Aside from saving energy and birds in flight, relieving us from being denied the pleasure of the heavens is a good enough reason to take action.
When I was a child, my grandparents lived on the outskirts of the city, far enough out of town that when the moon was new, my sister, cousin, and I could barely see our hands in front of our faces and each other playing nearby. Most evenings in summer we were treated to a view of a brilliant sky as we swung through the air on swings suspended from a rickety swing set in my grandparents’ back yard. That memory is the inspiration for this month’s Wendy Darling Bedtime Story.
It’s almost time to say goodbye to the nights of summer for this year. Not far behind are the spectacular harvest moons ushered in with autumn. Until that transition happens in a few more weeks, I’ll take each evening as an opportunity to venture out to see what summer skies remain and remember my childhood when those skies were filled with falling stars and wonder.