Every evening that I gather eggs,
shepherd in the guineas,
feed and water
the alpacas, goats, guineas, chickens, rabbits,
the cat,
I talk to the barn community
as I close the last gates:
“Thanks for the eggs.
Look out for each other.
Be nice to each other.
Take care of each other.
Have a good night.
Sleep well.”
I don’t know when I started this.
It’s as natural now
as every other part of the nightly
routine.
But I’ve noticed lately
that I really do care about them;
that I do feel part of their community;
that they are so used to me,
they come running when they see me
and it’s time to be fed,
and they ignore me as I walk close to them
any other time—trusting completely
my footsteps.

The other company
I keep
is the community of stars and planets.
Sometime every evening,
at least once,
I go to see them—
see what is where,
how many I can see,
which is red, blue, yellow,
clear,
bigger, more brilliant,
fainter.
Those nights they are brilliant
and many,
the sky clear and black,
something glad happens deep inside me
and I have to catch a deep breath.
Lately, the great swathe—
the other 100 billion stars
in the Milky Way—
are showing
and there is a sweet familiarity,
a quiet welcoming,
as if they’re/I’m coming home. Stars feel like
company,
always have.

How is it possible?
That though I’ve treated the stars,
the animals who live here,
like company,
suddenly,
I know:
they are.

10557160_10203890552378674_8023954093810462506_n“Landscape of the Heart”
A Watercolor by Mary Tevington

Te constellation Orion is easily found thanks to a line of 3 stars. Below the trio is the sword with the Orion Nebula. Credit: Starry Night Software/ A.Fazekas

Love this blog: National Geographic’s Star Struck.
Keeps us posted
on what’s happening in the sky.

Tonight (Sunday, 5 January):

Jupiter Opposition. The largest planet in the solar system reaches official opposition on Sunday, January 5, rising opposite in the sky from the setting sun, and offering its biggest and brightest viewing opportunity to astronomers.

And coming up…Sneak-Peek: Top 5 Sky Events of 2014.

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Waning Moon and Venus

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Waning Moon and Jupiter

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Waning Moon and Venus in First Light

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Venus, Waning Moon in Earthshine

Yes,
as I had expected,
the cold clear night
revealed jillions of stars.
As my eyes adjusted,
I could see more and more
and more.
They seemed to glow
brighter
than usual.
Having greeted
them,
acknowledged their bursting
beauty,
I went in for the night,
slept well.
And woke early:
the sky had more to offer;
there was something shining
through the bedroom window
in the darkness
before first light.
Even without my glasses
I could see the beauty.
It beckoned,
so I put on the glasses.
Then I knew I had to
put on warm clothes,
go out,
into the cold. (23 degrees
at 6 a.m.)
But there was no wind,
and besides,
what I saw warmed
every cell of my being:
the waning crescent
of liquid-white moon—
shining,
glowing—
and Earth’s shine
on the darkened part
of that familiar-and-always-wondrous
orb.
But that wasn’t all.
Shining brilliantly above,
Venus,
the “morning star.”
And, just below and to the left,
just a little fainter,
Jupiter—
all set gloriously in an inky sky.
My heart could barely hold
such extravagant beauty.
I texted my two moon friends.
Then called one.
She was in her kitchen
and threw on her coat,
phone still in hand.
When she saw what I could see,
she exclaimed,
laughed joyously
in my ear.
We shared the laughter—
nothing more could
or needed
to be said.
All the connections
of that wondrous moment—
celestial to Earth,
Earthlings to the heavens—
will hold us
as long as the stars
shine.

They come from cities and towns,
we share communion
and supper,
hugs and laughter
and then, in the first hour of silence
during the Shepherd’s Retreat
some go out into the cold winter night.
When it’s time to come in,
break the silence
and reflect together,
faces are lit
with the bracing cold
and the brightness of the stars.
They’ve seen the night sky:
black and clear,
so many sparkling stars
a few glowing planets.
Those who live in cities
forget
how much more sky
the country reveals
and, flush with discovery,
they try to describe
how beautiful it is
and how this particular beauty
affects them.
Though they can’t find the words,
their eyes,
the amazed shake of the head,
their faces aglow
communicate everything.
Those of us who live in the country
have long given up
trying to express
how we feel
when we see the night sky.
Even though we make night-sky-gazing a practice –
how can you go to bed without looking at the sky –
it never becomes less beautiful
or less thrilling
or less sacred
or any easier to explain.
We just go,
raise our faces to the sky
and stand in awe.