Bright lights and dark sky


There are many worthwhile ways to contribute to the betterment of society, the environment and the planet.

Many bands are well known, both locally and globally. The International Dark Sky Association is an association I didn’t know existed until I read an article about it recently. Google or just go to and get ready to learn more about light pollution and what we can all do about it.

According to the website, “The award-winning International Dark Sky Places program was founded in 2001 to encourage communities, parks and protected areas around the world to preserve and protect dark places through responsible lighting policies and public education”.

I will be honest. Reading something called “Dark Sky Parks” had me worried. These days, it seems like we all want our dark paths to be lit, especially when walking through lonely places at night. Crime, you know, is really “a thing”.

But the idea of ​​responsible lighting policies and public education caught my attention. We have choices in the types of lighting we use, how many lights we install, and how we choose to use them.

Looking at the US map of Officially Designated International Dark Sky Places, there are a few throughout the country, but the preponderance is found west of New Mexico, Arizona, and Colorado.

Seeing these places on the map now instantly takes me back in time, remembering our trip to Phoenix, Sedona and the Grand Canyon.

Our trips out west in 2008 took Rick and I to my hometown of Phoenix for his vet conference. This trip turned out to be quite the sensory delight.

Just outside our hotel room were flowering shrubs of oleander, which took me right back in a Proustian moment to the tall oleander hedge in our garden on State Avenue when I was a girl growing up in Phoenix. Separating us from our neighbor behind, this hedge was more than a geographical limit. It was a magical hideout for a 6-year-old, full of restful shade and scented with a distinct smell of organic matter. Mom kept telling us never, under any circumstances, to eat oleander because it was poisonous. I was a nice girl and I never ate it. I clearly remember not wanting to die there in the magical oleander hedgerow and sully its beauty.

Once Rick’s seminar was over, we zoomed around and explored. We stayed a few days in Sedona and marveled at the beautiful red mountains and mesas. Visiting one of the many supposedly spiritual “vortices” that Sedona is well known for, we wanted to test our internal-woo-woo vortex meters. But alas, we felt nothing, except a deep appreciation of the landscape.

After all the driving, we decided to take a trip to the Grand Canyon with ease. We hired two seats in a small group tour van, expertly driven by a handsome, talkative carcass of a Native American man wearing a denim shirt and jeans and adorned with beautiful Native American turquoise and silver jewelry. A simple wooden flute suspended from the rear-view mirror by a beaded leather cord and feather.

Leaving Sedona mid-afternoon, we arrived at our destination at the South Rim about an hour before sunset.

The ridged and rusty red rock walls of the canyon were more than awe-inspiring. They were incredible, and the overall depth and scale was overwhelming, beyond spectacular, even a little terrifying.

Before the iPhone, I had set up my Nikon DSLR camera and tripod on the unfenced rock ledge reserved for tourists. Of course, I was careful not to position myself too close to the edge, but close enough for my worried husband to hold on to the back of my panties in case the strong winds up there knocked me over in the abyss. It was so crowded, however, that I figured if I started going horizontal, unfortunately, the domino effect would wipe out the people in front of me before I could ever reach the edge and fall into it. Fortunately, our time in this regard with the crowd on the ledge was uneventful.

My photographic skills at the time were disappointing. I didn’t produce any art that night, just happy shots of canyon sections, people, and clouds in the blue sky. I would have done better to enjoy the moment and leave the artistic photographic efforts to the beautiful books of the professionals and to the publication

maps. Lesson learned: The Grand Canyon has its immense beauty and charm that are extremely difficult, if not impossible, for the average photographer to capture. Like lightning in a jar. Or the universe in a frame.

I had no idea, however, what would happen to us that was equal to the Grand Canyon or better.

Even after all the excitement of seeing this wondrous sinkhole in the world for the first time, my favorite moment was actually riding home in that van.

It was just after sunset when we left the rim of the canyon and boarded the van. The views out the windows darkened as we moved through the open, uninhabited landscape on the way back to Sedona. Finally, it was dark everywhere. No streetlights shone on this long road through the desert, and there was no traffic either. We were alone. People of a certain age will remember those rock music lyrics that start with “On a dark desert road…” I mean that’s the absolute truth. “Dark” doesn’t even do it justice there.

Then the driver announced that since we were, indeed, in the middle of nowhere, he would stop the van and we would all get off. Stopping the van, he invited us all outside.

This stop was not on the route, and I throbbed with sudden anxiety. I had already avoided plunging to my death into the windblown canyon precipice earlier. Now I was praying that we didn’t appear on the morning news as victims of an elaborate robbery squad.

That thought was erased the moment I walked out and looked up.

The view was stunning and beyond my ability to describe properly. I could barely take it all in. I know my jaw dropped and I probably whispered a holy expletive, like I usually do when I’m overwhelmed.

Our driver raised his flute and began to play.

There we were, all of us standing dumbfounded, staring at the big black sky and twinkling stars, listening to the sounds of a perfect little haunting flute melody. Up there was magic, breathtaking infinity, endless shimmering crystals set in an eternal vault of black velvet. I

could have spread a blanket on the floor and sat there watching for hours had it not been for the schedule requiring a quick return to Sedona.

This, my friends, was a great spiritual moment.

After we all quietly got back on the bus, still a little dazed and clearly in an altered state of mind, we were on our way again.

The driver told us that it was not part of the routines of other tour guides. But speaking with respect and conviction, he said he was keen to acknowledge the dark desert skies and twinkling stars that his Native American people have long cherished as part of their culture and spiritual beliefs. These rare sights should be seen, enjoyed and remembered, he said. They should be cherished and preserved by all. For everyone.

If he was just looking for a generous tip, mission accomplished. But I refuse this notion as his only motivation.

We all thought we were going on this little adventure just to see a miraculous Grand Canyon, deep and wide, full of color and thrilling majesty, and then return home on an uneventful road trip in a tour van.

What we got was very different.

Isolated, standing in the dark in the middle of nowhere in this great desert, we had received another miracle. We had the opportunity to witness – in an uninterrupted cinematic Panavision – the clear, unpolluted black night sky, the full firmament of shining stars and the Milky Way, from horizon line to horizon line in all directions, and to infinity and beyond.

So beautiful and yet so elemental, it was a sight we rarely get to experience fully as bustling city dwellers in our busy, light-polluted cities and towns.

We live much of our fast-paced, busy lives face to face, in bright places, among beautiful lighted buildings and skyscrapers, neon Broadway marquees, Hollywood search beacons, harsh halogen headlights in traffic intense, interstate billboards and endless soldier trails of illuminated luminaries on poles along our streets and highways.

In that rare in-person scenic moment, our flute-playing conductor had duly reminded and instantly re-educated us in the most touching way about the fullness of God’s natural gifts above us, and what we would miss if we lighted the planet with too much artificial light.

Perhaps we as stewards of the Earth could consider ways to reduce light pollution and preserve our night skies where we can. Because light pollution really is “a thing”. It affects our wildlife, birds, turtles, our circadian rhythms, our ecosystems.

To visit and learn about it and all the things we can all do. Replacing harsh exterior uplights with fully shielded downlights is just one. Choosing only the places that need lighting is another. And turning off unnecessary lights is a third.

Or if you need more persuasion, travel to the middle of nowhere on a dark, desert road between Sedona and the Grand Canyon with a guide who will play his flute, raise your awareness, and let you experience the miracle for yourself. -same.

A longtime Newnan resident, Susie Berta enjoys many creative pursuits including music, art, writing, cooking, gardening, entertaining and decorating. She is now pursuing her passion for writing and recently published her memoir, “The Veterinarian’s Wife”, which is available now on Amazon and locally at Corner Arts Gallery and Gift Shop. It can be attached to the s[email protected].


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