When was the last time you had the luxury of enjoying the beauty and sensation of being enveloped by the stars in the night sky? If it’s been a while, try to remember the peace of visualizing your place in the cosmos. Feel the surprising energy of the starlight. And if you’re an urbanite, maybe your amazement that you’ve been missing so much.
Wintertime is the season for studying the night sky and learning its meaning. Now is the time to make plans to get to a dark sky and revel in the sights. Traditional Navajos teach their children the constellation stories only in winter between October and February.
“Navajo stories of the Night Sky, called Winter Stories by the Navajo are told from October, when winter traditionally begins, to late February…The time of Winter Stories is considered to be a time of sharing and reflection when bears, reptiles, and insects are hibernating, and while plants are regenerating their potency for their next life-cycle in the spring.” [Sharing the Skies, Navajo Astronomy by Nacy Maryboy, PhD and David Begay, PhD]
For me the night sky provides context and scale to our lives. Viewing light that is thousands or millions of years old against a terrestrial backdrop that predates human existence puts the scales of our lives and our concerns in a larger perspective. Worries slip away when I realize that they and I are nothing in the scale of the visible galaxy, a tiny portion of the universe. We can see and photograph other galaxies - each containing hundreds of millions of stars. And there are hundreds of billions of galaxies.
On sale in our Pacific Landscapes Gallery is one of my favorite nightscape images I’ve ever made, a portrait of Delicate Arch framing the disk of the Milky Way. It’s a 12x18” print with hand-matting and framing. “Eternal Light” is offered for $600. If you see Nick about it at the gallery on weekends between 11-6, he will take it off the wall and send you home with it.
If you’re interested in learning more about viewing and photographing the universe, check out Terence Dickinson’s easy-to-read classic “Nightwatch: A Practical Guide to Viewing the Universe.” And if traditional Navajo astronomy interests you, check out the book referenced above.