It has been a long time since I saw a “midnight” and a longer time since it was “clear.” My loving spouse and I got into the habit of celebrating a Mid-Atlantic New Year’s Eve many moons ago. It occurs at 9:00 p.m. EST because at that hour it is midnight in the mid-Atlantic. Pop, fizz, toot horns, toast each other, clang bells, kiss, kiss, Happy New Year – we are asleep by 10 p.m. Now I’ll clear up this thought about it not being “clear.”
I can remember living in southern California in the late 1940’s and gazing up at the night sky in utter wonderment over the galaxies of stars above me. It was my favorite thing to do at night – just lie on my back in the soft grass and gaze. I was never any good at finding all the constellations, but I was able to see the dippers and Orion’s belt. Everything else was just a beautiful array of billions and billions of stars. The sky was crisp and clean and clear. Very clear.
Today, I live on the east coast in a rural area of the Delmarva Peninsula. One would think the air would be crisp and clean and clear. But no, it is not. On a good night there may be a million stars, sometimes only thousands. We have polluted our air not only with smoke and smog and soot, but with of all things, light. One would think that light is good. Certainly I am a child of the light who is buoyed up by all things light and bright. But I have discovered that not all light is good.
Drive up and down our major highways, or a look at a map of the earth at night (you can google earth at night from space or go to this link:
and you will see the magnitude of our light pollution. It is a wonder that we can see any stars “Upon a Midnight Clear,” not to mention the electricity we are wasting and the carbon footprint we are creating. Not a very clear legacy to leave those coming after us.
What is saddest however, is that our children and their children and generations to come will never know the wonder of a truly starry, starry night. A night so filled with stars and other wonders of space that we are pulled into the magic of the mystery of their very being. And, even with the advent of the Hubbell telescope and the awesome splendor of its images sent back from billions of light years away, there is just simply nothing at all like lying there in the grass on your back being sucked into the enormity of our universe. Oh, how I miss that.