This weekend I was camped at Stone Mountain for the Highland Games. It's been a long time I've been going. After dark I walked by the lake, and looked at the mountain by night. From the campground the mountain blocks Atlanta. The sky behind that black granite bulk is orange. Look far away to the east, and at last you can see a rebel pair of stars.

As a boy I lived in a land full of stars, but I can remember the first time I saw the orange glow. It was on the horizon to the south, when I was a teenager. Atlanta was advancing into the county, a bit at a time, and it was eating up the stars. Now it is hard to see the stars from that place by night.

Since then I've lived in China, where the sky can be viewed in gradations. Walk up a hill as tall as Stone, and looking back down you can see the sky divided like a sand sculpture into a half-dozen stacking fields of increasing dark. Of course, you lived down there where it was worst.

I've also lived in Iraq, where the natural sky was clear and weatherless by day as by night: but once in a while, when a dust storm would come up, it would all turn as red as Mars.

Currently I live in a place where I can see the stars again, as they were when I was a boy. I don't know how long I can stay in such places. What a luxury it is, and how strange that it should be one. How sad, too, to think of all the boys growing up in all the cities -- most of humanity, now -- who never see the stars.


Vicki said...

I've been camping in the Cherokee National Forest - Telleco. Beautiful.

Eric Blair said...

Where I grew up you could see the stars. (There's a reason James T. Kirk was supposed to have been born in Iowa).

You can see them in upstate New York too. I saw Haley's comet there.

But I think the most amazing thing I have seen was actually seeing the rings of Saturn through a telescope on the roof of a brownstone apartment building in downtown Philadelphia.

Just look up, where ever you are.

douglas said...

Eric's right- When you've grown up in the city, and you see stars by the dozen, you admire what you have, and then when you get the chance to see more (through a telescope, or by travelling to a place where darkness allows you to see stars by the millions) you appreciate the feast before you and savor the experience.

One thing that was clear to me spending time away from the city, was that it was no surprise, given the lack of distractions and the abundance of material, that the ancients had so much storytelling to do in the stars. That anyone is amazed by it now just speaks to our level of distraction by other things today.