Moonless night now here on the upper floor of the Earth. I step out into the darkness, into the humming cloudless night, and they are all there. All the names I know, and even more I’ve forgotten. Polaris, constant enough for our sorry lifespans. Antares, heart of the scorpion, named for what it isn’t. How would you like your name to be “Not John”? Alkaid, shining at the end of the handle of the Big Dipper. The name is Arabic, and means “the base” or “the fortress”. The street I used to live on was named for that star. Osama bin Laden also took a shine to the word.
Cassiopeia lies along the Milky Way, stretching her wings across the galaxy behind. As my eyes embrace the darkness she is almost lost among the clamor and light. The bears are there, diminished in reputation by the dippers they support. Draco, I never could pick out. It seems to be all the leftover stars that couldn’t fit into any other shape.
Arching almost directly overhead is the Milky Way. I look and try to turn that mysterious band into a disk of countless stars, but it is too much for me. There are enough stars I can see already.
Across the backdrop of the untouchable infinite crosses the works of man. High above but almost close enough to touch pass the blinking rumbling jetliners, crossing the sky but not daring to leave a trail behind them. The stars will not tolerate such impudence tonight. Another light moves across the sky, brightly lit as it crosses the plane of the galaxy then quickly fading. After a few seconds I lose sight of it, but I keep trying to look sideways where I think it might be, hoping to catch a hint of motion out of the corner of my eye. Whatever it was, it was big, and far above the atmosphere. ISS, I have chosen to believe. I could look it up, but I’m not going to.
Earlier tonight, driving back from a shopping run (the store closed early), our local star had just dipped below the horizon, carelessly leaving behind a rich sky full of pink and lavender. The ponds I passed stole from that palette and shamelessly reproduced it. The grass, green and haughty and still filled with the rain I had called forth, chose to contrast the colorful solar residue rather than echo it, which just made it all the better for me. I drove too fast, choosing to skim across the tops of the washboard ruts. It was good. It was thus with fondness that I said bon soir to out giant plasmic meatball, and welcomed the night.
Alone in the dark, more air below my feet than above my head, the stars blazed forth, barely bothering to twinkle. The hum of night insects surrounded me, supplemented by the vague, uncertain alarmism of Spike, who has obviously been paying too much attention to the government lately. Better to bark and have your ass kicked than to simply have your ass kicked.
The stars, and, strangely, no planet that I could identify (except Earth), continued on their vast journeys, unaware or our ridiculous fears.