Recently, a photographer friend, CC Lockwood, offered a welcome suggestion. Had I thought about doing a blog post on the beauty of the night sky? Not only did his idea inspire this new post, he was willing to let me include here two of his copyrighted photographs. They display well his masterful skill with a camera, especially in challenging circumstances. Following his lead, I will focus on the night sky theme here, and anticipate a proper focus on CC’s photography and books in a future posting.
The allure of the night sky was recently and surprisingly brought home to me in, of all places, downtown New Orleans. For there, because of bright city lights, on a clear night you will see few or no stars at all from just about any location in the Central Business District or the French Quarter. Yet, sitting in New Orleans’ historic Saenger Theater for a concert, I was delighted and distracted by the ceiling overhead, mimicking the enchanting night sky, with subtle bulb-lights effectively representing sparkling stars and recognizable constellations. If you have been there, you will know what I mean.
One of my earliest memories of having a sense of wonder in response to the night sky goes back to our first house in a suburban area of Yokohama, Japan. My room had a built-in bunkbed. At the top of the ladder, at the foot-end of the bed, was a framed clear window. I remember moving my pillow near it, looking out on a dark and clear night, and marveling at the view of the stars above.
I also remember a late summer night in south central Minnesota, about ten years later. Some friends and I had decided to sleep out at a place at the edge of town. We not only had the benefit of a clear sky on a dark night, we saw a partial eclipse of the moon as well as some aurora borealis. It was an astonishing and memorable experience.
That we are still touched by such sights, especially when we get away from urban areas, tells us something. We are not so different from people who lived 2,000+ years ago in the Near East, whose words record a similar sense of marvel. “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament shows forth his handiwork” (Psalm 19) These words spoke especially to me when I was camping on a then-somewhat-remote part of the south coast of Crete, preparing for Baptism, between terms at Oxford.
The image below, of the night sky over Zion National Park, reminds me of a more recent experience while camping on the south rim of the Grand Canyon. It not only brought home to me those words from Psalm 19, but also the story about God summoning Abram out of his tent to view the abundant stars in the night sky as a sign of God’s promises (Genesis 15; in an image much repeated in the following chapters and books of the Hebrew Bible). I cannot think of a more evocative place than the Canyon rim to say one’s morning prayers at sunrise, and especially one’s night prayers under the canopy of light above.
It is encouraging to learn how in recent years managers of a number of geographical locations have sought to establish no-light zones, precisely so that we might appreciate the glory of the night sky. The website, https://idahodarksky.org, has some very beautiful images of what may be seen at such a location.
To see more of CC Lockwood’s evocative photography, as well as to learn about his numerous books, you can visit his website here: https://cclockwood.com/