Joe and Pat Goss, sharing the stars through their telescope

 

When a sister Deaconess,
Pat Goss, wrote to say
that she and her husband Joe
would be coming to Kenton, Oklahoma,
I was thrilled
(because they also would be coming to visit
Turtle Rock Farm)—
and I was curious.
Why would two folks from Mesa, Arizona,
be coming to Kenton?
Kenton is at the furthest northwest corner
of Oklahoma’s panhandle—
three miles east of New Mexico
and six miles south of Colorado;
the only place in the state
on Mountain Time.
Black Mesa, just north of town,
is the highest point in the state.
Less than 20 people live in town.
Why would Arizonans
be coming to stay at Kenton?
Well, I would learn,
because it’s dark there at night—
perfect conditions for a star party.
Joe Goss is an amateur astronomer
and the two of them were driving out
for the Oklahoma City Astronomy Club’s
29th annual star party at Kenton.
They gather with others star-gazers
and spend evenings observing the sky,
up close.
The sky above Turtle Rock Farm isn’t as dark
as the sky above Camp Billy Joe at Kenton.
On clear nights here, in the northeast,
there is the glow from the Ponca City refinery;
and the glare from the truck stop along I-35
to the northwest.
But it’s plenty dark to the south
and high in the sky.
We can easily see the wide swathe
of our galaxy, the Milky Way,
and jillions of stars.
In fact, that moment—
of seeing
layers and layers
of points of bright light
deep in the dark night sky—
is one that brings a gasp for our guests,
who often name that moment
as profoundly beautiful
and connectional.
So after dinner,
Joe set up his 16-inch telescope
and aimed it to the southwest,
at Anterus.
During a wonderful star party of our own,
he also focused in on Acturus
and Mizar (in the Big Dipper handle)
and a cluster of stars,
so that we could see
the differences in colors
and brilliance.
Words are inadequate
to describe the experience
of seeing such beauty,
at living alongside
such wonders;
there were only deeply-felt “Ah”s
and reverential silence.
We watched the Milky Way
come into clearer definition
and kept our heads tilted up,
our hearts open
to the wondrous part of the world
above us,
stepping up to the big telescope
as Joe found stars for us to see.
Low cloud puffs
moved slowly across the sky
from the north.
They brought an early end to our star party
but we were happy to see them too:
they were the leading edge of a front
that would bring a welcome rain
the following day.

Pat and Joe have traveled on,
but the gift of their star party here
lingers.
I almost always step into the dark night
to look to the stars,
who out here in the country,
are beautiful companions.
Last night, in the dark, dark sky,
there was a feather moon,
the third night of a new showing.
And the jillions of stars—
some now
a little brighter,
a little closer.