This has been out for a few years but isn’t as well known as it should be, judging by its paltry 71,000 YouTube views. (“Paltry” is a relative term here. Think of that pop star you don’t like and compare the numbers from their latest video.) Filmmaker Marsel van Oosten spent two years creating this magical minute-and-ten-seconds, shooting thirty photographs for each second of video. The result is a stunning look at the night sky in the one of the world’s exotic places.
While the land that frames the view differs from place to place, in theory that amazing night sky is available anywhere, with specific star content varying based on your latitude. But in reality, we city-dwellers live under an impoverished sky lit by hundreds (and maybe only dozens) of stars. To truly experience the night sky the way our ancestors did, you have to go someplace without much “light pollution.”
I remember the first time I saw the night sky in its full glory, many years ago in a remote part of western South Dakota. It was a crisp night in March, with a bit of breeze in the juniper trees and an occasional lowing of cattle. Before the moon came out the sky was inky black between the stars and for the first time I understood the aptness of the name “Milky Way,” which had always seemed like a bit of poetic license.
A video is no substitute for the real thing, but it’s something, and if it spurs you to go out in search of dark sky, it will have served a good purpose.
(I learned of this video from the always-wonderful Open Culture.)
I want to follow up on the previous post and encourage you to find a way, as Thoreau did, to get out on the water after dark. It’s not enough to be beside a lake or pond. You have to be floating on it. Sometimes I take my kayak to a local lake just before sunset and paddle into through twilight and watch the stars come out. Continue reading →
“In warm evenings I frequently sat in the boat playing the flute, and saw the perch, which I seem to have charmed, hovering around me, and the moon travelling over the ribbed bottom, which was strewed with the wrecks of the forest.” — Henry David Thoreau, from “The Ponds,” Walden
James Galway on flute, playing Chopin’s Nocturne in E-flat major (Op. 9, No. 2). Published in 1832, it’s possible that Thoreau knew this composition.
The video also includes Galway playing Debussy’s “Reverie,” which was composed well after Thoreau’s lifetime, but who here is going to complain about a gratuitous Debussy piece? Continue reading →
Thoreau continues his description of dark nights. Think about his world, “a world lit only by fire” as the saying goes, a world with nighttime darkness that is utterly foreign to modern city dwellers. Imagine yourself in such a time, with brilliant stars and intense moonlight… or, when it is overcast, or when you’re deep in the woods, a world of deep, cave-like blackness. Are you afraid? Listen to Henry’s tone as he describes darkness. What is his mood here? Continue reading →
Last time, Thoreau described the close attention he paid to life in town — giving it the same level of detached observation that he gave to wildlife in the woods. Just a few paragraphs later he describes the opposite of mindful attention — the experience of being so deep in your own thoughts that your body operates on auto-pilot: Continue reading →
Go down by the water at night and you’ll hear them. You don’t even have to get very close — they’re loud, and probably never more playfully described than here. To set the mood with some mostly North American frogs, go to Animal Diversity Web’s frog call page (University of Michigan Museum of Zoology). Or listen to samples from Smithsonian Folkways’ 1958 LP Sounds of North American Frogs. Now read on: Continue reading →