The stars had aligned. We had one night free, it was slated to be cloudless, and the moon was just a sliver of its full self. So we packed the car and headed to one of the darkest spots on the east coast to camp for the night. Cherry Springs State Park in north/central Pennsylvania is an astronomers paradise. Perched atop a small mountain and surrounded by valley-hugged small towns and wilderness, light pollution is virtually non-existent here. See that small black dot on the map? That’s Cherry Springs. And a cloudless, moonless night here will blow your brains out.
Not that it should be so strange to see so many stars, but it is. We are humans that deny the night in many ways. For nearly all of human history, the night sky was the teller of tales past, of myth, of religion, of mystery. And as we sat there in a crowd of people, none of us seemed to know which bright dot was a planet, including, sadly, me. I felt estranged from something that was as much a part of me as the eggroll I ate on the car ride. We are all made of stardust and apple pie, Carl Sagan had explained. And barely any of us in this country get a chance to just hang out and look at ourselves.
I didn’t even really need the star map we brought. Honestly, the names of the twinkling dots didn’t mean as much to me as just seeing them swarm and smother the blanket of night. I don’t think I’ve been anywhere more romantic than sitting on that little bench, neck crooked backwards, soothed by the predictability of the star’s existence. Bob leaned his head on my shoulder and I kissed his cheek.