Night Sky

i was walking across our cul-de-sac to our neighbor’s house to tend to their dog. It was just before nine.

i was not in a good mood.

Sometimes that hits me, a dark mood more or less out of nowhere. i think one reason is i have done a pretty good job of living life to its fullest, and as the vagaries of older become clear, i realize the “to its fullest” part is fading, if not mostly already gone. Sometimes darkness descends because i feel all the hatred, self-interest, and meanness in the world, and i don’t feel a part of it, out of it. Sometimes, it’s just something that hits for no apparent reason.

Then something happens. Like last night.

As i walked down the street, i wondered why it wasn’t completely dark yet. Yeh, it’s right close to the longest day of the year, but this is the Southwest corner, not further north. Nine at night in the Southwest corner is dark any time of the year. But i looked between the houses and over the mesas. The western horizon had a pink aura. The sun was gone, long gone, but yet it was sending its aloha’s. The glow enchanting. I felt better.

i put the dog to bed for our neighbors who were away on a short vacation. He is an old, sweet dog. i felt guilty leaving him alone.

When i locked up the house and headed back, the ring of pink glow on the horizon was gone. But i looked up and Venus was so bright in the western sky it looked like she was coming out of her socket, headed somewhere, like near us.

i stopped in the middle of the street, looked up and slowly turned around. The heavens were alive with old friends. Altair, part of the constellation Aquila, the eagle carrying Zeus’ thunderbolts, is one i used to shoot with my sextant taking star fixes at twilight and after morning’s first light. Such was the kind of navigation i found connection with the past, not the slick satellite GPS they use today which is simply data – yeah, more accurate, quicker, but boring data.

As i usually do when i walk out of our front gate at night, i found the North Star, Polaris, the brightest star in the Little Dipper (part of Ursa Minor), found by following the two stars forming the outside of the bucket on the Big Dipper (part of Ursa Major), the means of finding one’s way at sea long before sextants.

For some reason when i spot Polaris, i think of the Navajos the Hopi’s, the Pima’s, the Anazai. i don’t know why. i also think of them when i go out in the morning at first light. i know why then: the Navajo’s had the doors to their hogans facing east, so the rising sun would shine on them to begin the day.

Last night, i looked more. The moon was rolling from the south, southwest to eventually go beyond the west horizon . It was two days shy of being a full moon, white, bright.

i continued: Gemini, the twins, Pollux and Castor was almost directly overhead. Close by was Orion, the boastful hunter placed there by Zeus when his wife Hera had the boaster killed by a scorpion.

Of course, i had my “Night Sky” app on my iPhone helping me. i used to recognize many when i was a navigator at sea, but that skill has faded like many others. i was delighted when Alan Hicks introduced me to “Night Sky” in Sonoma. We were sitting in his back yard with a sipping bourbon for a nightcap. We studied the night sky like many old mariners likely do when they are together at night, outside sipping bourbon for a nightcap. Alan pulled out his phone and we went back years to our nights at sea. Thanks, Alan.

Last night, i realized i was reconnecting. The sea, where the night sky is blanketed with stars, the sea where mariners are given “a star to navigate by.” Yes, Mr. Masefield, i too would like to go down to the sea again.

The sea and last night connects me to enormity. People are people, the world is the world, the universe is there. There is hope and quiet and peace. Last night in the dark, my darkness faded and i smiled.

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