Enjoying the dark as much as the light
I know a lot of people complain about the darkness at this time of year, but it doesn’t really bother me much.
Sure, I enjoy watching the sun creep a bit higher in the sky as we get closer to Groundhog Day, and who doesn’t appreciate it providing enough warmth to sit outside the ice shack on still days? It seems to me that if you’re into hunting and fishing – or really anything outdoors that requires you getting up early or getting home late – you learn to enjoy the darkness as much as the light, or at least nearly so.
When I was younger, heading out in the dark into the wind and waves to go duck hunting, or finding my way through the woods to my deer blind, could sometimes be a bit scary. As I get older, I have been finding the dark parts to be less unnerving.
I’m not sure when that change started happening, exactly. It could be the first time we watched the northern lights and the occasional meteor after setting duck decoys and waiting for shooting light. Maybe it was the time I realized, while idling the boat slowly in low, thick fog that held tightly to the river, that the belt of the constellation Orion was pointing directly to the point of marsh we intended to hunt. I was thrilled when we ended up on the doorstep of our blind, guided only by the stars.
My interest in astronomical delights has only increased. Now I get text messages when the International Space Station will be traveling over my neck of the woods. I’m thankful for hunting and fishing partners who tolerate my repeated astonishment when I stop what we’re doing to watch the station flying over.
Last spring, during our annual hunt for morel mushrooms, we stayed up late on a clear night watching the stars and space satellites. It used to be rare to see a satellite, but now on any given clear night you can look up and see one, usually within minutes. I was telling my fellow campers about being freaked out the first time I had seen the lines of satellites launched by Starlink, which are intended to provide worldwide internet access. (They’re also adding to the increasing amount of “space junk” and possibly threatening the ISS, but that’s another story.)
My companions had heard of the project but had not seen the satellites which, shortly after launch, follow each other in a line until they break out into their own orbits – not something one typically sees while star-gazing. As if on cue, a line of Starlink satellites appeared while I was talking – more than 100 of them in a row. It was incredible to see. The scene repeated itself the next night.
Later in the summer, I was fortunate to have some time off work during the height of the Perseid meteor shower, so I stayed up late again watching them streak across the dark sky in our neighborhood. It was fascinating, and made even better by a miraculous lack of mosquitoes.
As awe-inspiring as they may be, my enjoyment of these celestial delights extends no further than as far as my arm can reach while pointing out the space station to friends. Unlike others who, lately, are realizing their dreams of flying into space, if even for just a few short minutes, I have no desire to be up there as a fellow satellite.
I’d sooner face three-foot waves in the dark with my little 14-foot duck boat. In reality it may not be any safer, but it sure feels that way.