Astronomy Domine

We’re in Wellfleet for a few weeks. Yesterday was a beautiful day out here — not too hot, with low humidity and a cloudless sky, an indescribably welcome relief from the sweltering summer we’ve had in New York City. By ten or eleven in the evening the temperature was down in the lower sixties, and with the new moon, the sky was inky black and alive with stars.

I give my father a call most nights before retiring. He is in his mid-eighties, wheelchair-bound, and lives in California with my brother and my nephews. Years ago he and my mother had a house in Chatham, down at the “elbow” of the Cape; they loved it out here, and it was one of the hardest things for them to leave behind when they moved to southern California in 1985.

I rang him up from out on the deck, and knowing how much he missed this place, I tried to bring him into the picture. I described the cool sea breeze, the whirr of the crickets all round, and behind that, the faint susurrus of the water moving against the harbor shore, a third of a mile away. I told him what a dark night it was, the sky clear and Bible-black, the Milky Way paving a lambent arc through the zenith, and the stars glittering like jewels.

He said that one of his favorite things about the Outer Cape had always been the dark night sky, and that when he and my mother were there they loved to lie outside at night, just looking.

And then he said:

“On those clear nights you don’t just see the stars, you feel the stars.”

Nice, Dad. I liked that very much.

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4 Comments

  1. Kevin Kim says

    It’s good to have a good dad.

    Posted August 14, 2010 at 11:25 pm | Permalink
  2. JK says

    If you get a hankerin’ for some humidity, I know a place – realizing of course a mere 77% may not be sufficient – but just wait til daylight.

    http://forecast.weather.gov/MapClick.php?CityName=Salem&state=AR&site=LZK&lat=36.3711&lon=-91.8231

    And if it’s dark nights you want? I know which breaker to trip at which sub-station.

    Posted August 15, 2010 at 4:50 am | Permalink
  3. the one eyed man says

    Be careful with that axe, Malcolm.

    Posted August 15, 2010 at 12:14 pm | Permalink
  4. jeanie desiree oliver says

    And I know a great big man to call when you want the power back on in little ole Salem, AR!

    Posted August 17, 2010 at 7:15 pm | Permalink