Stars and Flowers

By Clark M. Thomas

Recently I visited a cattle rancher in a nearby county. Because his medium-sized farm has fabulous night skies, I asked him how impressed he was with all the sparkling wonders overhead.

His response surprised me. He said he has no idea what his night skies are like. He and his one helper go nonstop from dawn to dusk. When he's through with the day he barely has time and energy to eat supper, and then sleep.

Many beautiful things are there for us to see during the day, and his farm in a secluded valley has one of the most beautiful landscapes you could imagine. Yes, this farmer does appreciate the natural beauty he sees during the day. I feel he could become an enthusiastic astronomer, if only he had the time and energy to look up when the Sun is down.

Ephemeral flowers seem to be the opposite of apparently eternal stars. Nevertheless, flowering plants have been with us since the dinosaurs. Individual flowers come and go, as do individual stars come and go. People come and go. Everything seems both eternal and ephemeral. Even the farmer's mountains will erode and change.

Personally, I don't worry about naturally eroding Appalachian mountains. I do care about the changing opportunities I have to see the beauty above.

Dark skies are an under-appreciated national treasure. We appreciate flowers planted by the side of road and flowering trees nearby; but how many of us appreciate our "celestial flowers" above? Artificial lights flooding the atmosphere steal our easy access to the natural beauty above. Artificially planting natural flowers in divided highway medians is nice, but hardly a sufficient substitute. There is no quick and easy fix, so we stars-struck urbanites drive to dark areas - when we aren't glued to the computer looking at digital space images, while eating hamburgers from a farmer's cows.