Big Dipper, You Are Enough

When I was a kid, I was able to identify The Big Dipper and that’s about it. That was enough for me. But once I started having children, I got greedy for more stars.

Fortunately for me, the solar system is heavily marketed to parents with credit cards. Here is a list of star-related items I bought:

  • Glow-in-the-dark stars
  • Stickers
  • Night lamps that projected “stars”
  • Flashlights with different “star” filters
  • Puzzles of the night sky and solar system
  • Space-related posters and framed art
  • Pajamas with stars and planets
  • Books, poetry and music about stars and constellations
  • A telescope (used once)
  • Star-shaped cookie cutters
  • Astronaut helmets
  • Memberships to the local planetarium and tickets to the planetariums in big cities

That’s what I remember but I am sure there is more.

The media has also been germane to my obsession. Not a week goes by when I’m not reading about some celestial event. There have been blood moons, super moons, blue moons and harvest moons. There have been eclipses lunar and solar; total and partial. Mercury has been in retrograde, Venus in transit and Jupiter at opposition. And let’s not forget “The Great Conjunction,” also known as “the Christmas star.”

When my kids were young (meaning they didn’t have a choice), I brought them outside to see every single cosmic event. One winter “morning,” I roused three of my children (Angelo was still too young) at 3:00 a.m., drove them to the country away from any light pollution and set up sleeping bags in a snowy field so they could watch a meteor shower. I had read that the conditions would be perfect at that pre-dawn time to see up to 100 meteors in an hour. The conditions weren’t perfect; they were cold.

Jesse and I have spent hundreds of dollars on star-inspired consumer goods and spent many hours outside observing the night skies with our children. Nowadays making time for celestial events just seems like too much work.

But, sometimes when we get home late at night, we’ll get out of the car and notice that The Big Dipper seems like it is right over our backyard, just for us. One of us will point and say something like “Big Dipper!” and we’ll all look up and marvel at its brightness and beautiful, simple lines.

Big Dipper, please forgive me for seeing other stars. You are and always have been enough. -Connie

Fern’s self portrait from 2015. It’s based on the Carl Sandburg poem “The Child’s Moon” but she included stars.

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