The second night on the starfield…

… was even more gobsmacking than the first. Thursday night fogged up around the edges, so Cherry Springs’ vast dome, while fully dark on top, was fluted with white along the rim. The satellites and meteors and thick constellations – and of course Mars – gradually, gradually emerged, leaving the hundred or so people on the pitch-black expanse gazing with big eyes and closed lips. Blankets and alpaca coats and white wine kept us warm.

Saturday night was absolutely clear. No moon. Only stars, dripping from every edge of vision and piercing the heart at the zenith. Cloudily the Milky Way set itself as backdrop. Now there were hundreds and hundreds of people on the mountaintop, wearing their red beam headlamps and murmuring to one another about the heavens. My sister wore a coyote skin coat and kept her hands dug into its deep pockets; I wore a tight tshirt, a sweatshirt, sweatpants, a thin black winter coat, and my alpaca over the coat. Also a thick scarf and a wool hat that said Corning Museum of Glass.

As the hours passed and the stars whirled, we broke off pieces of baguette and cheese and drank more white wine. Somewhere a child announced she spied an alien and everyone laughed. Marijuana smoke floated about and I thought I’m at Woodstock for the Stars. Yes, because it was a celebration, in a muted raptured way; we were gathered, dark-adapted, for galactic observance, with all the spirit and fear in the moment.

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