Looking Up

As a child, in the last years of the 1950s, when I looked up, I saw stars, and the stars had colors. I'll skip the rant about urban lights blotting out those starts, by the time my daughter first looked up at the night sky. I was taught that lights were progress and that neon lights were artworks for passengers in cars. My favorite book was Switch on the Night, a story for children written by Ray Bradbury. This was read to me as part of a campaign to avoid hysterics when, at bed time, my light was switched off and my bedroom door was closed. So, I learned to love the dark, by switching on an appreciation of the night, and the brilliant prose that signaled bedtime.

My Father had a telescope, with a wooden tripod, which he would setup on the lawn on warm summer nights. One night, he pointed it at the moon, and held me up to the eyepiece, to admire the wonder of another world. A line of neighbors was forming, behind us. No one explained that you looked through a telescope, not at it, so all I saw was my own harshly backlit eyelashes. "it's a bug." was my summation of the experience. The line of neighbors wordlessly dissolved into the night and my Father was left with a celestial show for which there was no audience.

The daytime sky was contained my favorite color, even as it changed colors throughout the day and the sun set. On occasion, it was filled with clouds that looked like rabbits or cartoon characters. It sill is, I suppose. One day, the sky was an intense transparent blue, but it was dotted with small, regularly spaced, "fair weather" clouds. My father said he wasn't worried and that nothing bad was going to happen, and within a couple of days, President Kennedy said the same thing. It might have been the last day on earth, for most people, but it wasn't. I was mainly grateful for that spectacular sky.

I was the mid-sixties before I looked through my Father's telescope again. The stars no longer showed obvious color, and the Milky Way was slowly becoming the "Milky Where?". But I still loved that sky.

Today, I have my own telescope, but most of the stars I remember from my childhood are notional entities, like germs or ghosts. One has to believe in them, because they're not visible from our lawns or balconies, for the most part.

Right now, I'm looking at a milky sky, with strokes of cirrus clouds, a hour before sunset, but an hour after the shadow the a mountain has claimed the sunlight. (Luckily, I taught myself to touch-type.)

The sky is half my world; the part that hardly changes, regardless of where I find myself.

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