This week the Perseid showers are scheduled to reach their peak. The “star showers” have been observed in the summer sky since 36 A.D. and they awe us with their reliability and their mystery.
One of our many natural benefits to living in the San Juans is the beautiful dark canopy of the night sky overhead, without the “light pollution” of billboards, neon signs, football fields or even streetlamps. Unlike much of the world population, centered in urban areas with their “light pollution” of advertising, transportation and artificial light, we are blessed with the “holy dark” of night-time skies.
Walking at night is a supreme indulgence in the soft sounds, the quiet footfalls, the dark embrace of tree boughs and a glimpse upwards to the universe that is far, far greater than any one of us. To dwell in that dark abundance is luxury indeed.
This summer, however, that feeling of abundant beauty is also a casualty of the repetitive and suspicious summer fires.
Olga resident Irmgard Conley reacts to well-meaning advice to “Keep exterior lights on when it is dark and think about changing to brighter watt bulbs, to help deter unwanted guests” by saying, “I fear this will be another case of hysteria, much like the national one about so willingly giving up one’s civil rights for supposed safety? (I grew up in Nazi Germany and have an idea where that can lead).”
She also says:
“In spite of the very disturbing things happening recently, let us not get into a bunker-mentality, please! Nothing would give a sick mind more satisfaction than making us all feel so vulnerable that we will change our way of life, acting as though we were living back on the mainland.
“I believe that it is much better to have a normal lighting patterns inside our homes, indicating that they are occupied, rather than having a relatively small area of the property lit by a high wattage fixture. We once used a motion-tripped light over our driveway, but soon realized that deer were setting it off, and most likely irritating our neighbors in the process. Keeping a good flashlight in the car proved quite adequate for getting to the front door.
“I love living where we can still see the stars in the night-sky, instead of blinding lights from surrounding houses, and I for one refuse to trade this rare ambiance for ugly light- pollution and a false sense of being ‘maybe’ more secure.”
The Perseid meteor showers are brightest and most numerous between 1 and 5 a.m. The showers last until August 24.
It may be “only on Orcas” that we fight the sick motivations of arsonists by star-gazing but knowing that the night has a thousand eyes may deter future fire-starters.