Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Pox Take All White Light!

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored!" It's officially autumn. Day and night were balanced for a moment, but now the night will prevail. For awhile. We can deal with it.

There's a running joke in my household about salad. I like steamed vegetables of every kind. I like stews and stir-fries. But I just don't care for salad -- not even a well-made salad, and trust me, after 40 years of cooking, I know how to make a salad.

Whenever I begin to make a salad, I always kvetch about it. I call salad "leaves." I usually say, "Damn all leaves! Why do we eat leaves? The pox take all leaves!"

This cracks my family up. When Mr. Johnson does the grocery shopping, he says, "Do we need leaves?"

To which I invariably reply: "Damn all leaves! Leave those leaves at the store! A pox on all leaves!"

Today at my school I was using a picture book to teach a reading strategy. It's a story called "Nana Upstairs and Nana Downstairs" by Tomie de Paola, and it's a terrific little book.

On two occasions in the book, the hero looks out the window and sees a shooting star.

In several of my classes, the students volunteered the information that they'd never seen a shooting star. They even knew why. It's because they live in Camden, where there's so much white light you can barely see the sky at all. Philadelphia, right across the river, is even worse. Go ahead. Find a star, let alone a meteor.

During my course of years, I've been blessed to see several spectacular meteor showers. It's rather a quest, if you want to do it. First you have to know when the big showers are due (Leonids and Perseids), then you have to be willing to get up at some odd hour of the night, and then you're at the mercy of the weather.

Where I live, you're also at the mercy of white light. There's literally no place that isn't lit up in some way at night, except for wooded areas. Have you noticed? Wooded areas contain trees, and it's hard to see meteors when there are trees in the way.

So I shake my fist at the porch lights, and the street lights, and the auto headlights, and the night lights in all the buildings. A pox upon all white light!

Yes, yes, I know all about burglars and the evildoers who thrive in the darkness. I admit that night lights are a necessary part of urban and suburban life. But just like I hate salad (but it's good for me and I eat it), I hate white light. Damn it all! No one should die without seeing a shooting star.


mjd said...

> It's officially autumn. Day and night
> were balanced for a moment, but now the
> night will prevail.

Oh no, not here! Here is Melbourne Australia, and as the days get longer, my vegetables grow better and better. Spring sure is a great season to be in the garden...

Sarita said...

Hey, mjd, that's a found poem! Anne, you unwittingly wrote a haiku (I think it qualifies...)! :)

I've never seen a meteor shower, but I have seen occasional meteors.

THE Michael said...

Now, think about it. What can a burglar do in TOTAL darkness? I think all that white light actually HELPS the theives do their work. If all the lights are out, and one needs to see what he is doing, he uses a flashlight, right? What's easier to see during a dark night?

Maeve said...

Some areas are putting in lights-for-the-night with special sky-shields to keep the light pointed at what is actually wanted to be illuminated and not cluttering up the lovely skyscape with all that nasty light. I wish that cities everywhere would replace the ones that fling light willy-nilly into space with these more reasonable ones. I hear they are spendy though.

But really, we don't really need to light up Earth for the aliens to find better. heh.

I have been bemoaning the night sky here, and how only the brightest stars in the constellations are visible anymore, when as a child I could see all of them and so many more.

Now I don't get that unless I've driven quite a ways out of town. I felt completely blessed this summer to be in the mountains and to see the night sky without interference by human's lights. So vivid and amazing and immense!

Maebius said...

As a former Astronomy major, I am well aware and somewhat saddened by "Light Pollution" in modern society.
One reason I moved as rural as I could. I like our stars.


ha..another reason to love west,texas..i can see the stars, comets, etc. right off my porch or get a better view by driving 10 minutes down the road and park on a gravel road and see everything ..
ps..my girlfriend's son is named camden..yes..after the city in new jersey..sigh*

Gruvkitty said...

During a recent meteor shower here in Los Angeles, I managed to see ONE meteor and about 3 police helicopters with search lights after watching from a hammock for about an hour.*sigh* I suppose I'm lucky to have seen the one.

One the other hand, I visited Tulum in the Yucatan about 11 yrs ago and I've never seen so many stars - it was breath taking/mind blowing - it made me weep into my Corona with a slice of lime. When we read about ancient civilizations who aligned temples to the stars, I think it's challenging for some to get excited about that notion because many of us are lucky to see Venus and the Big Dipper. Many folks have no real sense of what the sky looked like pre light pollution.

mjd said...

After the meteor shower, I felt so clean.

Anne Johnson said...


kimc said...

A few years ago we were in San Felipe in Baja. We came out of the restaurant and found ourselves standing in the parking lot looking up at all those stars. A few minutes into this, our real estate agent came out and saw us standing there and laughed delightedly. He said, "We all do that around here. That's why the homeowners' association voted not to put in street lights."