A. and I have fallen into a new rhythm where — if we don’t have other evening plans like pottery — we sit on our front patio after the sun sets and after the boys are asleep and look up at the sky. We turn off all of the lights in the house and we sit in the quiet — often with wine in hand — lying back in lounge chairs and gazing up. On average, we’ll see about seven or eight shooting stars. (One long streak about a month ago moved us both to our feet and we shouted, just like watching a game-winning goal in the last minute of a soccer match.)
Years ago, I bought a constellation book in hopes of one day cracking it and trying to identify them. A few weeks ago, I finally (finally!) sat and studied the book and the sky from my warm driveway, craning my neck up and down, up and down.Then A. did the same earlier this week, staying up till 1:30 a.m. (“I couldn’t help myself,” he said.) He also watched Cosmos on PBS; I still need to.
Now when we look up, we can easily identify the Big and Little Dippers, Dragon, Cassiopeia, Cepheus and the Big Square. This week, we found Swan together — our heads bent together over the book lit by a flashlight. We turned the light on, turned it off, looked up and let our eyes adjust.
Some of my favorite memories are of staring at the stars in places where I could see the Milky Way — while camping in the Andes in Peru and on a beach on Chumbe Island in Tanzania.
Now I can see it from my front patio. And we’re an hour from Death Valley, where we plan to camp in January and identify different constellations than what we can see now.
The universe is amazing — and I can’t begin to understand it. But I do plan to continue to look up until I’m old and gray. It’s both mind-boggling and comforting to me to think about the generations before me seeing the same pictures as I see now. I hope to pass that appreciation on to my boys.