In 2015, the International Dark Sky Association named the town of Westcliffe, Colorado a “Dark Sky Community.” In 2015, I was fourteen and had never heard of the International Dark Sky Association. I was slogging through the eighth grade, so I didn’t know that when I graduated high school, I’d take a trip to Westcliffe— a town south of Colorado Springs.
The locals we met there – like Tom, who ran the gear shop All The Range – called Westcliffe, “Your Grandpa’s Colorado.” Tourists hadn’t yet stumbled upon it, which meant the only things to sightsee were the things God made. During the day, we hiked along the shoulder of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains; and when the sky blushed over the snowcaps and night fell, we turned off the kitchen lights and sat in rockers to watch the stars.
A Dark Sky Community, I learned, is a region that dispels light pollution. Westcliffe won the Dark Sky award because they adopted a lighting system that places cones around the streetlights, angling them downward. As civilians, we only need to see the road below us, but light pollution happens when all the light is uncontained, spilling everywhere it isn’t needed. Ironically enough, it seems we have too much light to see.
The Wet Mountain Valley website reminded me that until 100 years ago, the Earth moved in a liturgical pattern of light, then darkness, light, then darkness— unbroken by streetlights or city “skyglow.” We forget this, because our lights blink on at the first evening shadow. I crested Edgewood Road on my walk last night, draped in the muted tones of sunset, when the dusk-to-dawn light suddenly buzzed on. Well, I could see myself now, but the sky faded away.
Westcliffe, Colorado borders the San Isabel National Forest— a wilderness of mountain pines— and the wilderness is a good place to find unclouded darkness. Light pollution didn’t shroud the stars 100 years ago, so imagine the wilderness outside Egypt 3,000 years ago. The Israelites would have looked up to more stars than Tom from Westcliffe will ever see. And I imagine it reminded them of the promise God had made one starry night, when he took Abraham from the lamps of his tent and drew him into the darkness:
“And he brought him outside and said, ‘Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.’ Then he said to him, ‘So shall your offspring be.’ And he believed the LORD, and he counted it to him as righteousness.” ~ Gen. 15:5-6
Dad woke at 4am one morning in Westcliffe and stepped outside to see the Milky Way Galaxy like an eye gazing back. He said he almost roused me from my bed in the cabin’s loft, but didn’t. I try not to hold that against him. The truth is that I will always need to be drawn out of the light of my own making and into the wilderness, where it’s dark enough to see what God has promised and remember how he’s kept his word.
“Lift up your eyes on high and see;
who created these?
He who brings out their host by number,
calling them all by name,
by the greatness of his might,
and because he is strong in power
not one is missing.”
~ Isaiah 40:26
Dark Sky information taken from https://visitwetmountainvalley.com/dark-skies-wet-mountain-valley/
6 thoughts on “Dark Enough to See”
I’m reminded of this line from The Valley of Vision.
“Lord, in the daytime stars can be seen from the deepest wells,
and the deeper the wells the brighter the stars shine;
Let me find thy light in my darkness,
thy life in my death,
thy joy in my sorrow,
thy grace in my sin,
thy riches in my poverty,
thy glory in my poverty.”
ah, i love that line. thank you.
I love this! And now, because it the nights are drawing in and it is dark in west Wales by 8pm, I am going to put on my coat and go for a wander by moonlight in a blustery wind, to see what I can see….
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write me what you find, will you? (:
Oh, this is so good! I love that line: “a liturgical pattern of light, then darkness”. I think one of the main issues of our day is overindulgence- we’ve forgotten when to say enough. It’s a sort of pride, really. There’s nothing more humbling than walking in the dark and letting your eyes adjust to the light that’s already there.
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darkness is humbling, yes. good thoughts!