When I was a kid, I remembering it getting pretty dark at night. Dark enough for my sleepover friends and I to sneak out of the house and walk around in the middle of the night – as long as one avoided the streetlights. Someone that I dated used to complain about that darkness; he lived in an urban area where darkness and shadows were hiding places for muggers and such, and he never did get used to a black sky. The night sky by his home was a sort of glowing red color. You could see your shadow at night.
In my old town today there is “light pollution” – that same, pervasive sort of red glow that fills the sky. Its source is the multitude of strip malls, highway shopping centers, big-box retail parking lots, and ever-present landscape lighting (why does one need to shine lights up into trees, anyway?), etc. At the old house I could stand on my back deck and see stars, but really just the very big ones.
Now that we’ve moved further west and away from the city, it is a nice feeling to have darkness at night. While we do have a street light in the front yard to light the driveway, the minute you walk away from it’s light print you are again cloaked in the darkness. Because it is so much darker here in the country, one is afforded the opportunity to see thousands of stars twinkle in the night sky.
Whenever I look up at the winter sky, I try to find Orion. I’m not really well-versed in stargazeology, but I can find the belt of Orion and then work my way out from there to locate the Big Dipper. I know enough of mythology to know that Scorpio, Orion’s nemesis, was sent to the summer sky by the gods because he and Orion didn’t get along.
While looking at Orion, my eye catches the slow creep of a satellite working its way across the sky, low to the horizon, moving from south to north. We don’t see many jet planes at the farm because we most thankfully have moved away from the landing path of Newark Liberty Airport. (At the old house, a new jet would cross the horizon and work its way across the sky every 45 seconds. Clockwork.)
The other night I was standing quite still on the front porch, watching a couple of rabbits move across the yard, and listening to the tiny crunching sounds their paws made as they tentatively hopped through the snow. I glanced up to see a meteor streak across the sky, just over the barn. I was glad to be in that moment.