An essay in the fall issue of Blue Guitar Magazine! (Published by the Arizona Consortium for the Arts.)
When I was a kid, nearly the only time I looked at the stars was when I had to pee.
Every year, the week before Christmas, my family and I headed north out of Los Angeles to a campground on the beach just outside San Luis Obispo. Three a.m. trips to the bathroom—crunching over pine needles, through icy air and eerie quiet—were a family affair. Bladders burning, my sister and I made our parents venture out of the tent first to confront the terrors that were lurking unseen beyond the thin nylon. By the time we had laced our shoes, zipped our coats and tripped out of the tent, our parents’ faces would be lost skyward. Knees locked, shoulders slumped, mouths agape, they craned their necks toward the blazing darkness and the spackle of light superimposed upon it.
“Girls!” my dad would gasp. “Come see this. You gotta see this.”
“Not now,” we’d say. “After the bathroom. Come on.”
Yet night after night, we looked up. Bladders forgotten, cold ignored, we would be sucked in once again. Once again, subsumed by the enormity, the enormous and irreversible spottiness of it all. A night sky in three dimensions.
In Los Angeles, as in cities across the world, the night sky has long been lost. For the first time in history, a majority of the world’s population is urban. For the first time in history, millions of urban children grow up without this smack in the face, without the realization that there is so much more. As cities grow bigger and their streetlights grow brighter, little by little, darkness is disappearing. Behind the electronic brightness of billboards and office buildings, what was once an interactive canvas of sky becomes a spilled bucket of black paint—a vague nothingness.
Does it matter? Do we need darkness?
Read the rest here.