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Seeing Stars

One of the things I most enjoy about living in the country is the views. I could, and probably will, write about various scenic delights that I experience, complete with photographs. But today I am writing about seeing stars.

Though probably not a reason for anyone to move to the city, I know that people like to see stars (celebrities) walking among the normal people. The kind of stars you can see depend on the city, I know. But most major cities have something that makes it possible to catch a celebrity doing normal things. Even if you don’t live in L.A. or N.Y.C., where I guess you can always see someone famous, you might see sports stars or other entertainment figures. I also get excited by seeing celebrities in person. I have asked for autographs and have had my picture taken with movie stars and other celebrities. But it has been a pretty rare occurrence for me, and, while I get excited, it is a controlled excitement. (oxymoron?)

I recall being at a concert in the city where we lived previously, at which some very big movie stars showed up unexpectedly. I did not see them myself, but I know that lots of people went crazy about seeing them in the crowd. And I heard that someone made a pretty good bit of money by snapping some photos of the stars and selling them to newspapers or magazines. (I don’t know if they sneaked the camera in or if that venue did not have a “No cameras” policy.)

Seeing celebrities was rare for me in the city. In the country, it will be even rarer–as in never. At least that is my guess anyway.

But I don’t care. The kind of stars that I could see only rarely in the city have nothing on the stars that I can see regularly in the country.

As I stood out on my deck a few nights ago, looking up in the sky, I realized again how much I appreciate a clear night sky. I don’t know (remember) a whole lot about various constellations or what other bodies can be seen with the unaided eye. But I know that I like looking. I could rarely see stars in the night sky when I lived in the city. We did not live in a particularly brightly lit part of the city, so I didn’t think it was a result of light pollution (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Light_pollution), but maybe it was. I don’t think our city had particularly bad air pollution, but maybe I am also wrong about that. Maybe we didn’t have enough of either type of pollution to worry about, but the combined effect was enough to keep us from seeing stars.

But now, on nights when weather does not prohibit it, we have a sky full of stars. And our field of view is clear, like a planetarium. We can look in any direction and see bright specks in the sky.

Why does it matter? Why is being able to see stars so great? I think that it is pretty natural to be fascinated by the stars in the sky and wonder about the rest of the Universe. (Although, for those who think that the remainder of the Universe revolves around them, stopping to look at stars and wonder about them probably never happens.) I think that people have been fascinated with the heavens as long as there have been people. I think it also comes from knowing that this view is a consequence of being pretty isolated in the country, that we don’t have to worry about air pollution and light pollution, that we can look at the stars in the quiet–without car stereos, car alarms, traffic, and police helicopters disrupting the peace–and that this says something about our life now.

It probably also has to do with childhood memories. When I was young, my family would sometimes have a small fire on a weekend evening. We would cook hot dogs and roast marshmallows. We would spend time together, talk, and just have fun. And when it got late, after we were done eating, we would look up at the stars. My dad would talk about constellations, and we would ask questions. But mostly we would just look. They were simple evenings, but they were great.

And so, now, I look forward to spending evenings under the stars with my family. Hot dogs and marshmallows desirable, but optional. And I hope that one day they will value the time and the views as much as I do.

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