This week: a potpourri.
First, I am venturing out into the dark sky arena for a minute.
When I was a kid in Montana, a favorite pastime was to look up to the heavens on a clear night and find the Milky Way, the Big and Little Dippers, the Northern Star, and the constellations that we knew well enough to call by name. Shooting stars were the best; you could make a wish upon that star! Once in a while, we saw a satellite and thought that was amazing. Where was it going? Who put it up there? What was its purpose? We took for granted our connection to the infinite night sky.
Recently, on a cloudless night, my husband and I sat in the hot tub surrounded by a mountain of snow, leaned our heads back, and stargazed. In time, I saw two shooting stars and a satellite pacing itself across the sky. I was thankful for the dark sky around us at that moment so I could see the miraculous occupants of the universe.
Montana now experiences light pollution that reaches into the deepest unoccupied areas in the state. For instance, the pristine Bob Marshall Wilderness in Western Montana has sky glow from cities hundreds of miles away. Astronomer Joey Castle of Great Falls, who has studied stars from Antarctica to Alaska, points out (to “Montana Quarterly” writer Amy Grisak) that “there is so much light scattered from Great Falls, Helena, Ronan, Kalispell, Whitefish and Columbia Falls the skies above the Bob are no longer as dark as they once were.”
A passionate group of people worked many years to earn the designation for the Waterton-Glacier International Dark Sky Park in Northern Montana and Southern Alberta, Canada. My adopted state of Idaho, where I lived for 30 years, also boasts an International Dark Sky Reserve in Central Idaho.
Here in our valley, the Methow Dark Sky Coalition is working tirelessly to promote understanding of the issues involved with light pollution. There are things that individuals can do to make a difference. To name a few ways to light the ground, but not the sky: shielded outdoor lighting fixtures (Ace Hardware carries many styles), motion detectors or shielded lighting fixtures for security/safety lighting, and simply using lighting only when and where it’s needed. Small things, but in the big scheme of things, what we as individuals can do to help keep our illustrious skies dark.
Next: aspiring writers.
I was invited to attend the final session of Methow at Home’s Memoir Writers’ Workshop last week. Arriving at The Cove II, I was warmly greeted by the facilitator of the workshop, retired English teacher Jane Hill, and those who had been learning and honing writers’ skills throughout the workshop.
It was an inspiring experience to listen to readings from the group, ranging from lighthearted to emotionally challenging, evoking both laughter and tears. The attendees were complimentary of each other’s work creating a climate of support to continue writing.
Good for Methow at Home for sponsoring these kinds of events and volunteers like Jane for offering their services.
Correction: I’m sure readers chuckled at a typo in my column a couple of weeks ago about the “extreme” weather in Mazama; i.e., “3 inches of snow.” We haven’t seen only 3 inches of snow on the ground since November — should have said 3 feet!