Wild nights!

As the longest day of the year approaches, we enter the best nights to watch the sky. There’s something timeless about sitting outdoors wrapped in a warm breeze,

Let's howl!

Let’s howl!

losing yourself in the depth of the stars. People have done it for centuries – but not in the city!

Yesterday at dusk, I spotted Venus in the west. I’ve seen Venus before, or what I thought was Venus until it began moving into the landing pattern for Ontario International Airport. The dot last evening stayed put and brilliant as the peach-color sunset faded to night.

On many nights, I look up and float into a pool of stars. It feels like I’m 16 again, lying on the beach on Manitou Island, stunned by seeing for the first time uncountable pinpoints of light creating the blanket above me. I forget that a cute guy in faded jeans sings folk songs at the bonfire; I don’t hear Lake Michigan gently curling to the shore. All I think is that on the night this starlight was created, some ancient shepherd looked up to wonder at the stars above him.

In California, my county created a dark sky ordinance for unincorporated areas like mine. By law, no porch lights can spill onto neighbors’ property, and none can burn brighter than 75 watts. The idea is to let us enjoy this natural asset, the night sky, though we tug at the coattails of the nation’s second-largest city.

Years ago, I stumbled on a happy “dark sky” accident. A friend and I had gone to camp near San Diego at Palomar Mountain, famous for its observatory that had the world’s largest telescope for 43 years. As evening fell, the campers around us began setting up their own telescopes. They belonged to an astronomy club that met monthly during summer at the campground, allowing members –and us – to peek at the heavens with them as recorded music of Native American flautist John Rainer floated through the campground.

Now, without a telescope, I look for bright planets, stars and the moon. It’s small and pale at the moment, out mostly in the day when we can’t see it, but when it’s full again, I plan to have neighbors over for a mad moonlight dinner outdoors. We own lunar magic that people can’t experience in the city – but we own it only briefly. Then the moon goes on her way, leaving us to long for her return.

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