at the stars! Look, look up at the skies!
look at all the fire folk seated in
(Hopkins, 'The Starlight Night')
keeps many wonders. But few surpass
the silent, glittering immensity of
a clear, moonless night sky. So since
November, 'the month for meteors,' is
upon us, and since the great comet,
Kahoutek will soon be the center of
much attention, now might be a perfect
time to do a column touting the wonder
of the stars as a study worthy of the
attention of any wise young person wishing
to gain perspective through this wonderful
I were to suggest one subject guaranteed
not only to develop my children's imaginations,
but also to give them some insight as
to their place in the scheme of things,
that subject would be astronomy.
a boy, I was lucky enough to have a
star-gazing aunt. I can still remember
squinting over Aunt Priscilla’s
shoulder as she enthusiastically pointed
out various stars and related aspects
of the ancient myths or current astronomical
findings which helped bring the magic
of star-gazing alive to me.
that bright orange star?” she
would say, pointing up toward the east.
That’s Arcturus the amazing star
mentioned in the book of “Job”.
“And that bright blue-white star
overhead? That’s Vega. It’s
called ‘the arc light of the sky.’
And see that beautiful blue dazzler
up there close to Vega? That’s
Deneb, the brightest star in the northern
cross. Isn’t it curious that there
are crosses in both hemisphere’s?
Perhaps God wanted everyone to be able
to see a cross, since, according to
the Bible, Jesus helped God in the laying
out of the heavens.”
so it would go. I don’t think
I really saw half of the wonders Priscilla
pointed out–it’s hard to
see where someone else is pointing–but
even as a little boy, I was awed by
the vastness and glory of the heavens.
sure those early sessions with my aunt
were what caused me to decide to take
up astronomy when I was in the 8th
grade. But I also had the good fortune
to stumble upon a book that made my
learning of the constellations really
easy. It was one of the Little Golden
Nature Series called simply, “Stars.”
book used the brilliant concept of showing
in golden dots the constellations for
each month on a light blue background
with a dark blue drawing of the thing
represented behind the golden dots.
That way I could imagine, (thanks to
the picture), the lion, or king, or
serpent the stars of each constellation
were supposed to represent. The more
scientific star maps just had dots connected
by dotted lines and looked nothing like
the things they were supposed to represent.
With the Little Golden Book, I was able
to learn just about every constellation
visible within a very short time.
can still remember my first discovery
using 'Stars.' It was Cassiopia, The
Queen. I was astonished that the big
'W' was there, right where it was supposed
to be in relation to the Big Dipper,
the only constellation I knew to start
that, discovering new constellations
became sort of an obsession. And by
morning (I stayed up all night) I was
able to name nearly all the constellations
then visible without the book! I was
hooked for life.
then the stars have become my old friends,
and have served as sky marks putting
me in remembrance of many things that
happened to me under their influence.
For instance seeing the Plaedes low
in the east always brings to mind the
old farm where I grew up and could stand
on the front porch and see that little
micro-dipper twinkling just above our
barn in the fall of the year.
I never see Leo the Lion without picturing
Peterson’s Butte in the Oregon
of my high school days, and the Lion
twinkling just above the crest of that
fir-scented mountain, while The Platters
sang, 'Heavenly shades of night are
falling; it’s twilight time.'
and my mind swam with the wonder of
the beautiful girl who had shared my
first dance at the sock hop that same
magical May night of my junior year.
I never see Orion, the hunter, without
thinking of the countless times I walked
home from pin setting on sub zero North
Dakota nights with only the wonder of
the skies to give me warmth. And speaking
of warmth, one star even reminds me
of the lovely and matchless lady I was
blessed to marry. “That fair-haired
lady of the evening,” Venus–still
brighter than all the rest and I’m
Sirius, always reminds me of my beautiful
it any wonder I am high on the stars.
People without them live with a huge
hole, a black hole, in the skies of
their lives right where that radiant
gleam of hope should be shining. No
wonder so many are depressed! How can
they 'choose something like a star/
To stay their minds on and be stayed'
as Robert Frost says, if they have no
star they can call by name?
I had anything to say about a required
set of “must take” courses,
Astronomy would be one of them–right
their beside music, and math, and literature
and composition. Better toss in art
too; need that to make us observers.
would have my kids learn the stars today
so they might raise their sights up
to a higher goal than kids aim at today–not
heaping up money, or winning fame or
power. But aspiring to things “high
and solitary and most stern.”
like them to be able to read the lines,
'Deep calleth unto deep,' and sense
in their spirits what the psalmist was
show your little ones the stars again,
so that they may be able to answer the
infidels with but one simple and faithful
reply. 'But my God made the heavens.'
column first appeared in 1979, but I've
added to it here with the benefit of
hind sight and I hope a little wisdom.