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Thursday, June 30, 2011


One of my favorite memories from my childhood involved my dad, crickets and stars.

It was a nice cool summer night. I couldn't have been more than 5 years old. My dad was laying on one of those lounge chairs made out of woven plastic tubing (Hello 70's!) on our back patio. He put me on his lap, and I leaned back against him. It was dark, the crickets were chirping, and the sky was full of stars. I remember feeling so special, having that little moment with my dad, being outside late at night when I should have been in bed. It was one of those moments when you just feel like everything is right in the world.

As cities grow and more people move in, all the lights from all the houses and all the streetlights and all the yard lights block out so many of the stars. Through the years, I watched the stars fade over my house. It was sad. Whenever I would get the chance to be in a more rural area late at night, I would take advantage of the opportunity to see more stars.

(Here's a little bit of good information: if you want to really see stars, go to the mountains in Montana. They're so close you feel like you could almost touch them. While I really do love our new home here in North Dakota, I miss mountains.)

I've developed a new little habit around here. Late at night, when everyone is asleep and the house is quiet, I make a point of stepping outside for a minute to look at the north sky. I'm waiting for the Northern Lights. One day my patience will pay off and I'll see them.

Tonight, when I stood on my porch, I noticed something very pleasant. It was silent outside. All I could hear was the sound of the wind blowing through the trees and my neighbor's air conditioner. Not a car, not a single person's voice, nothing. Just peace and quiet. Before we moved, there was always sound. We lived next to an apartment building, and it seemed like someone always had a TV on. There were always cars within hearing distance. People would be talking or even yelling somewhere in the neighborhood. And let's not even get into the antics of my drug-dealing neighbor down the street and his customers. (Wow, listing all that now, it sounds like I lived in a ghetto! I promise, my neighborhood was generally very safe and calm. Just a busy street only blocks away from an even busier street. And the drug dealer didn't live in the neighborhood for long.) But here tonight, there was absolutely nothing - not even a truck on the highway.




So then I looked up at the sky. Stunning. Stars everywhere! But there's a really bright street light on the corner, and it was messing with my view. So I went out to the lawn to lie down in the grass in the shadow of my lilac bush. The stars were beautiful! Just the way I remember them being that night I was on that lounge chair with my dad all those years ago. (I even think I may have been able to see the Milky Way, but all the bright street lights on my block made it hard to tell.) I felt like everything was right with the world all over again.

It was so perfect tonight. If it weren't for the mosquitoes, I would have just grabbed a blanket and a pillow and slept out there all night under the stars.

Is it too much to ask for a power outage in the neighborhood? Just for a couple of minutes so I could see if that really was the Milky Way I saw.


Jenni said...

What a beautiful memory. I wish I had memories of your father from back in those days. And I totally agree with you about the stars. I frequently lament the bright lights that interfere with my seeing them here.

MTGrace said...

Guess you'll just have to visit sometime and we'll go hang out on the lawn in the middle of the night together!