Look Up!

January 12th, 2024

“Orion the Hunter, which straddles the equator like a
diplomat, is visible around the world.”

. . . . . . . . .

 

This recent Farmer’s Almanac article that popped into my inbox reminded me to take the time to look up at night. The writer notes, “Orion is often one of the first celestial patterns a child will notice, thanks to its Belt of three medium-bright stars in a row,” and indeed, this was probably the first constellation I was aware of, right around the age my daughters are now (nine).  

As usual, it began with a book. My father, recently divorced from my mother and lacking quite a few resources, somehow got his hands on this book—most likely at a tag sale or the dump—called The Night Sky Book. A few years ago, recalling the afternoons spent reading this book in a quiet corner amidst the chaos of my father’s house, I went on an internet rampage to find a copy for my daughters, ultimately tracking the long-out-of-print paperback down on eBay. Flipping through the yellowed pages full of hand-drawn ’70s-style illustrations brought me right back to those early, lonely days of divorce and the solace of books.

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Before my daughters were born, I often went on full-moon hikes over the Marin headlines or up Mt. Tamalpais with a close group of friends in California. Orion was barely visible from those Bay Area night skies, with all the ambient light of civilization. 

Now, I live in rural Vermont, but in the nearly seven years we’ve lived here, I have not looked up at the night sky nearly enough. There were years when I didn’t even leave my house after dark. I remember the first time my daughters were awake at night outside, and the wonder they exhibited looking up at the stars and moon.

“Those old things?” I thought. “They’re nothing new!”

It struck me as wild, at the time, that children have a first time looking up at the night sky, and how enthralling that must be, yet, as a grown-up, I rarely look up.

Here’s to looking up more.

And yes, Pluto is still a planet according to The Night Sky Book. Ah, simpler times.

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