Starlight, Star Bright

One of my favorite memories of my summer here took place on a warm, clear night in early June. We have a giant white telescope sitting in the living room of the trailer, which we were told was broken upon its discovery. Coming back from a potluck dinner, I thought of it sitting there as I found my eyes glued to the sky my entire walk home. The stars were particularly spectacular that night, even for a sky as dark as ours. I just couldn’t make myself go inside, so I climbed onto the top of my car to watch the sky a little bit longer. A few minutes later I heard the crunch of my neighbor’s footsteps making his way down the road. He saw me sitting there and asked if I had ever used the telescope being stored in my living room. I told him no, that it was broken, and he announced that a few weeks before my arrival he had been bored and fixed it. He hadn’t told anyone for fear that they would move it to an inaccessible place.

I was off my car in half a second, and the two of us were hauling the giant thing onto the sidewalk a minute later. We were soon joined by a third neighbor, and the three of us took turns looking at the stars and moon through the lens.

I found myself disappointed with what I saw though. Through the telescope, nothing seemed real. It was almost as if the detail took away from the experience. Suddenly the sky seemed less massive, less incomprehensible, less enchanting. So I stood back and let my companions take turns, before they too grew bored of looking at one small section of sky at a time, and joined me in taking the whole of it in at once.

Austin got out his star chart, and we climbed onto Jesse’s roof with a blanket. The three of us lay up there for hours, trying to match the constellations on the chart, making up new ones, and generally awing at just how close the milky way seemed to us from that rooftop. There wasn’t any special meteor shower that night, and yet the stars seemed to be falling all around us. We didn’t go more than ten minutes without seeing a bright streak across the sky. At some point it was decided (somewhat cornily, and probably by me, though to be honest I can’t remember) that each time the three of us saw the same shooting star, we would take turns making a communal wish.

“I wish for our families to always be happy and healthy.”

“I wish for a dozen more nights like this on Jesse’s roof”

“I wish for a sandwich… err… 3 sandwiches?”

At some point in the early morning we decided it would be best to climb down the roof before we were all taken over by delirious exhaustion. I slept so soundly that night, thinking of how incredibly lucky I was to be in this gorgeous place, so close to the stars, surrounded by such wonderful people.

In my first post about Canyonlands, I wrote about the first time I slept out on the basketball court with my housemate Kathryn and last summer’s visiting SCA Jess. Last night Jess returned for a visit on her way back from her most recent summer adventures. The three of us lay on the basketball court again, this time watching the Perseids fall (though to be honest, it wasn’t too much more spectacular than any other clear night on the Island. See how spoiled I am?), and I thought to myself how strange it was that only a few months ago I was seeing and doing these things for the first time – these things that have become so natural to me, things I can’t imagine living without. And then I felt sad, because as glad as I was to see Jess again, I knew her return meant that summer was coming to an end.

I’m not sure what I’ll do yet. I would love to stay at Canyonlands a little while longer, to witness this place in another season and state. I’m not sure if that’s possible yet. And I’m not sure what my alternatives really are. All I do know, is that I’m definitely not ready to give up my beautiful milky way just yet.

7 mile canyon, on hwy 313, Moab, UT

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