Sunday, August 4, 2013

The Big Dipper Over Sabbathday Lake - Dispatches from Maine

A few nights ago I walked out to the end of the dock.  The sky was perfectly clear as I stared upward into the starry night.  We are far enough away from ambient city light that blurs our night skies at home.  Here there are so many stars to see. 

“It has been years and years since I last saw the Big Dipper,” my 85 year old mother confessed to me during her visit here at True’s Point the summer of 2010, the first summer my wife and I had spent the entire season at the lake cottage on Sabbathday Lake.  We had been coming to this place each summer since 1988; at first only two or three weeks every August.  But since my retirement in the spring of 2010 we have been in residence from late June until the beginning of October.  And each of these four summers my mom has come up to spend a week with us.  She tells me it is the highlight of her summers, and I’m happy she feels that way.  She likes the peace and quiet as do we.  And then there are all the stars!

The Big Dipper has always been my favorite asterism.  I’m not sure why; perhaps because it is so easy to find in the nighttime sky.  I have long marveled at the constancy of the Big Dipper.  All of the stars, if you come right down to it.  I find it difficult to fathom that many of those tiny pricks of light may have burned out centuries, even millennia, in the past.  Only now is their light reaching earth.  Their positions never alter, however.  Their size and brightness rarely change.  A sky full of stars to look at, yet I am drawn back to the Big Dipper.  Just seven small stars that constitute part of the Ursa Major constellation.  Their geometry has brought solace to those following celestial navigation, seeking out Polaris, the North Star, as they crossed unknown seas and through unexplored lands.  Others simply marvel as they look into the immensity of the universe as children in suburban backyards in the Midwest, or standing on a dock on the edge of a lake in Maine with an elderly parent, and realizing that some things never, ever change.  Yes, we can all take solace in that.

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