This time of year sees its share of gray skies, a seemingly endless woolen rain blanket drawn across the heavens — the gray that won't go away. Rain patters the skylight as I type and I dream of summertime ...
On a warm, clear night, it's not uncommon for people to drive a few minutes out of town to enjoy our dark skies. Night is no reason to stay in, for how else would one see the stars? It is said, and I've experienced it, that spending time in the forests is rejuvenating; time spent beneath the stars is similarly rewarding. To go out at night and look deep into the cosmos is to find your place in the universe. How many poems, songs, works of art and prayers has the night sky inspired?
Rural California's North Coast region is blessed with an abundance of dark skies, as the relentless growth of the country's population centers hasn't yet impacted our nighttime surroundings with their formidable glows. Yet even in the hills, one may see in many of our vistas flares of light dotting the landscape from distant towns or remote industries. Is encroachment of light on the sky and the destruction of our view of the stars inevitable?
No. It's not inevitable. There are many ways for individuals, communities and agencies to minimize the amount of light that spills into their surroundings, onto our neighbors and into the sky from cities, businesses and homes.
Some communities have taken it upon themselves to preserve the night sky. In Arizona, Flagstaff boasts of becoming the world's first "International Dark-Sky City" in 2001, as recognized by the International Dark-Sky Association (www.darksky.org). Using light fixtures that prevent the spill of light into the sky or onto one's neighbors' properties and using warmer color temperature lighting are among the simplest techniques used to greatly reduce city glow into the sky. Even people who never look at the sky can be happier without unnecessary glare intruding on their bedrooms from their neighbors' unshielded lighting. Visit Flagstaff's Dark Sky page for lots of information on how the city did it and why: www.flagstaffdarkskies.org.
While California's North Coast doesn't contain any locations officially designated as Dark Sky sites by the International Dark-Sky Association, our remote location nevertheless provides many richly star-studded areas. Let us hope that as we grow and develop our region, we can do so in a way that preserves the beauty of, and our connection to, the night sky.
To keep abreast of David Wilson's (he/him) photography or purchase a print, visit www.mindscapefx.com or follow him on Instagram at @david_wilson_mfx and on Twitter @davidwilson_mfx.