Christmas and the Night Sky

Les and I don’t really do Christmas, for us it’s (usually, but not always) just a day we both have off work. Maybe if we lived closer to family we might go to a dinner or something, but we’ve long ago given up on gift-giving for the holiday. Unlike Thanksgiving, we haven’t really come up with our own Christmas traditions yet. Since neither of us had to work this year, we decided to take a scenic drive on Thursday, it seemed like an us thing to do, and maybe it will become a tradition (at least while we live in areas that have nice weather in December).

We started out taking a back road from Chino Valley to Seligman, it was a dirt road for most of the way, and quite a nice drive. Once we got to Seligman we were hungry, we knew most things would be closed so we brought our lunch. I told Les to find us a park to eat in. We didn’t find a park, but in looking for one we wound up on State Route 66, which is the former U.S. Route 66, we got distracted by the Burma-Shave signs and by the time we found a park to eat at we were in Peach Springs, on the  Hualapai Reservation. We had a little discussion about whether we should keep going or turn around and go home.

We decided to keep going, and before long we found ourselves in Kingman. From there we took US 93 to Bagdad and then State Route 96 back home. The drive on 96 was entirely in the dark, I definitely want to do it again in the daytime, but doing it in the dark was amazing for one big reason – the sky. Living the past few years in New York (even in rural NY) where light pollution is a huge problem, and on the Oregon Coast where every single night is overcast, I kind of forgot what the night sky really looks like.

I’ve always enjoyed looking at the stars, but I never really appreciated it until moved to Price and Les drove us out into the middle of nowhere. Seeing all those stars always makes me put things in perspective. I had an astronomy professor in college who used to make really bad jokes about how little human problems and human affairs matter in the scheme of things, he wasn’t nearly as funny as he seemed to think he was, but his premise was sound.

Looking at the night sky in the middle of the desert really got me thinking — about all the people who were busy spoiling their children with material things and those who were upset that they couldn’t spoil their children, people who were so happy to be visiting their families, and those who were miserable because either because they were visiting their families or because they couldn’t — that in the grand scheme of things, Christmas is just a day and it is only what we make it, just like any other day.

I could go on ad infinitum about how the scale of the universe helps me to put things in perspective, but instead I’m going to leave it to the master, no one could really say it better than Carl Sagan anyway. There are several versions of this video floating around the internet, some with images that match the text, some with really cool animation, but every single of them that I watched had really distracting music, so I went with this one, it’s pixelated, but the music isn’t as intrusive. I listen to this every so often, and it always makes me think, even when I’ve heard it so many times I could lip-synch to it, something about hearing it in that amazing voice moves me.

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