Last week I learned — too late to write about in my column — about the passing of my former Valley Life colleague, Sally Gracie. In other circumstances, perhaps, Sally and I would not have forged a friendship, but there is a certain esprit de corps inherently present in the small league of people who share each other’s Sunday evening “What am I going to write about this week?” pain.
It was through this solidarity of mutual despair that Sally and I became comrades in arms, if not officially friends. Sally was the first to talk me down from the ledge when I got anonymous phone calls complaining about my column (yes — we do get those more often than you might think) and the first to champion my early (and later) fumblings as I learned to walk the line of a gossip columnist.
Later, after I learned what a comic actor Sally could be, I had the privilege of directing her in a Readers’ Theatre production at The Merc Playhouse, along with an all-star cast of thoroughly enjoyable valley characters. When she moved away from the valley not too long after, I was always glad to have had this time at The Merc with her. Acting in one Readers’ Theatre production does not make one a star, but I suspect that if Sally had had more time to cultivate her theatrical capacity, we might have seen her onstage more often.
Thoughts of one type of star lead me invariably to thoughts of another type — the celestial version. You can’t visit or live in the Methow Valley for long without noticing that our skies are pretty darn dark at night. Constellations, shooting stars, the Milky Way — all are a constant presence on clear nights. The visibility of these galactic attractions is, of course, due in part to the relatively small number of buildings in a relatively large area. But it’s also due to a deliberate choice residents and businesses are making to protect our beautiful night sky — to preserve our view of the cosmos. The Methow Dark Sky Coalition is heading this movement.
On moonless nights this fall and winter you may see cars cruising around the valley, stopping periodically on the roadside. What might seem like a suspicious activity is actually a scientific study, conducted by Dark Sky volunteers who monitor the quality of the night sky with a special meter that detects light pollution. These nocturnal monitors will be surveying areas from Winthrop up the East Chewuch Road to Falls Creek, west out the paved sections of Wolf Creek Road, up the Rendezvous as far as possible, and south along the East County Road. Eventually, there may be more routes in Twisp and Mazama.
In populated areas, you may see an identifying sign taped to a monitoring volunteer’s car window. For more information, visit www.methowdarksky.org.