Seeking Darkness in the Heart of the City


From Wikimedia Commons, NASA image of a meteor burst.

From Wikimedia Commons, NASA image of a meteor burst.

Tuesday, 4 a.m. I’m in the back yard in a hammock watching a tiny sliver to sky. Besides the crickets chirping, not much is going on.

It’s dark back here, which is good, but there are so many trees that my view of the stars is just shards of sky. So after 20 minutes or so, I decide to go for a walk.

I stroll north on Devonshire. Black is hard to find. When I reach the shadow of a tree that shields me from the nearby streetlight, I pause and look up for a time. Stars.

As I near Peace Church the light pollution grows worse. As I stroll beside the church yard, I can see five street lights on C Avenue, plus a nearby one on Devonshire, plus a row of six or so lawn lights that brightly illuminate the south façade of the church.

I stroll past the church into a zone where only a few street lights are my enemy and again pause. Hood up (to help block light) and stare at the stars.

When I’m bicycling and I come to a slow traffic light, I have a minor mental trick that I use to keep from growing impatient. I merely focus on slowly saying one decade of the Rosary, using my fingers as the beads. I figure if I don’t make it through more than one decade, I’m not really losing much time.

So I silently prayed to give myself some time looking at those distant suns, so bright in their own solar systems, so tiny from where I stood.

My vigilance went mostly unrewarded, although I did see a few faint flashes that could have been cosmic dust burning in the atmosphere. This week s the Perseid meteor shower, and it’s supposed to be a good week to see it due to little moon light and clear skies.

Well, the moon was up, but only a sliver, and I don’t think it caused much trouble. But if I find myself awake at 4 a.m. Wednesday, I may take a little drive.

Where to? Not sure. Any suggestions of a sight near north Cedar Rapids where the lights of the city don’t snuff out the light of the sky?

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