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Walla Walla, WA
Wednesday, October 4, 2023

Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star

February 23, 2023
David Smith

Reissue: Originally Published October 15, 1992

David Smith

celestial commode 

someone flushed the milky way and stands above it watching 

as it whirls into itself swallowed by night 

watch closely but not dizzily as the lights recoil out of sight 


Life in the 20th century has become so fast-paced that it is a rare occurrence if any of us actually has a chance to stop and smell the roses, much less linger and look at the stars. How long has it been since you thought about the Milky Way land (and I don't mean the candy bar). 

Most of us spend our time looking down rather than up; our poor necks lack the muscles. lift our bulging craniums, so our chins flop down and rest upon our chests. The meager me we feed our eyes consists of a pair of shoes and a stretch of sidewalk. 

When I say that we all need to take some time to look up at the stars I don't mean the fifty or so reasonably bright stars that are still visible while we are being blinded by street lights. You have not truly experienced the awe-inspiring beauty of the night sky until you have fled from the destructive lights of the city, spread out a blanket in the pitch darkness and stared at the light show. 

It might sound crazy, but the best way to look at a star is to look to the side of it. This because the highest concentration of rods, which are the most sensitive to dim light, a located outside the direct path of light entering the retina. The hitch in this acute system of light detection, as many of you know, is that bright lights "blind" you and impair your ability to discern fine points of light. This is because the photoactive pigments in the rod are quickly broken down in the presence of bright light and it takes a while to reform the pigments. All this means is that it takes 20 to 30 minutes for your eyes to reach their peak sensitivity to dim light. Time. Oh no! It takes time. Well, the simple pleasures come to those who wait. Besides, patience is a virtue. 

So the next time you find yourself lost in the helpless monotony of daily life instead of going cow watching (COWS for those of you who put it as your MASK hobby), head out to the country and go star gazing. Take a friend and blanket and lay out in the cool serenity of the night. Maybe you will be moved to poetry or even to muse on spirituality. Maybe your mind will just go blank (sometimes that is not such a bad thing). If nothing else you will at least get a conception of just how vast and wondrous space is by the profusion of tiny dots in the sky. 



  1. By Stephen Turner of associated Editor.  
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