Torrance Barrens is located about forty-five minutes drive from my home. In 1999, it was declared the first Dark Sky Preserve in the world; star gazers come from near and far. Light pollution often clouds the brilliance and clarity of the heavens above, even in the small town where I live; at Torrance it’s black. The topography of the barrens requires sturdy footing, a good sense of balance, and a flashlight for trekking back to the road after celestial dazzle.
I’ve always been interested in astronomy and once thought to join a local club of enthusiasts. They however, had telescopes of their own; knowing what to look for and where to start was a puzzle to me. Sky charts and glow-in-the-dark stickers for the ceiling are two distinctly opposite ends of factual.
In 2009, while vacationing in Barbados, the Bougainvillea Resort on Maxwell Coast Road in Christchurch offered an astronomy session on the beach. The experience was awe-inspiring, it was even more astonishing to find out that neither the Big Dipper or the North star could be seen in the Southern Hemisphere sky. The sound and feel of waves lapping on sand-covered toes while peering awkwardly into the eyepiece was an unforgettable event.
My husband Tony and I were married in August of 1995 by the same minister we had each met previously. Paul Dempsey visited Tony’s former wife when she was hospitalized for cancer care; and I attended Grief therapy sessions at the church after my husband died. Paul’s comfort was such that we both held him in our highest esteem, and one year for Christmas we bought him a “star” he could call his own. The probability of ever seeing it, even through a powerful telescope, was miniscule, but thereafter we affectionately called him “Star” – it made us smile.
Little children familiar with Jiminy Cricket of Disney™ fame can usually remember the words to “When You Wish Upon a Star” – the words and melody still sings in my memory. Nursery verses of yore include “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” – too special to forget and likely taught to our children or grandchildren.
As the seasons change, so does the night sky. Sometimes we crane our necks to find a constellation that appears to have moved, or a bright star that’s not exactly where it was last time we looked. I look for a particular light out there before my bedtime, I call it “Tony’s star”. Last evening, despite heavy cloud cover, it was visible; dimmer but still twinkling. In my dreams I can reach out and touch that special someone by taking a Night Flight.