- We haven’t seen a starry night in Huntington since superstorm Sandy knocked out all power on the East Coast. The moon bravely shines through the local illumination pollution, and I can still make out Polaris and Orion in winter. The planets are often visible, although easily confused for a while with jet plane wing lights swarming Kennedy and LaGuardia. But there is not a trace of thousands _ let alone billions _ of stars, and certainly not a hint of the Milky Way.
- We get an awful lot of our “nature experiences” from media. Habits of wild animals, wonders of the cosmos, terrors in jungles or icecaps are all available when I pick up a book or turn on television. I’m sometimes shocked at the difference even with a stroll through small tamed local woodlands. On the other hand, I’m quite content not to come face to face with a lion.
- I’d be lying to claim I miss the stars much. I was never a night owl, never a wilderness explorer. I like my soft warm bed when I sleep. At most, I’d glance up now and then. So not having countless little sparks overhead has never particularly affected my mood.
- Like many people, I suppose, I like the idea of brilliant starry nights more than the actuality. Just as I enjoy stories of epic nature more than living the adventure. My delights are local, calm, beautiful, constrained _ beaches and shells, dirt paths and leaves, birds and bugs. Yet I can be saddened to contemplate that starry heavens are missing, just as that countless species enter extinction even though I would never have encountered them in person.
- Once upon a time, twinkles were pretty much confined to stars overhead. Now they are commonly artifacts of tree branches waving and temporarily blocking artificial electric lights. But twinkles, like their daytime cousin sparkles, carry mostly benign connotations. Evil characters rarely have a twinkle in their eye. The few other times twinkles are glimpsed _ in a raindrop or dew for example _ they pose no menace. A happy, flashing surprise to jolt thoughts out of whatever rut they may have fallen into.
- This time of year twinkles abound as folks put strings of small lights all over houses and trees, as darkness falls quickly and early. Twinkles reflect on the harbor from homes outlined in white, masts of small sailboats gaudy with colored strings, and out my window as the remaining leaves momentarily obscure neighbors’ decorations. Soon I will add my own decorations to the grand mélange. I’m pretty sure the energy expended does not help the planet at all, but it cheers us up and I guess a few iguanas, toads, and lizards more or less are a price worth paying.
- Our eyes can glance at the sun, be dazzled by sparkles on the sea, gaze at a sunset, wonder at a full moon, and be entranced by countless twinkling stars. If we pay attention.
- Human senses are only incredible when mediated by mind.
- Some claim to see the future through a glass darkly. I always regard it as twinkling possibilities. My adolescence was filled with stories of alternate incompatible futures, mostly world-ends in bangs or whimpers. The only escape was vaulting over the near future into centuries or eons of distance. And those grand masters of the genre of science-fiction could twinkle grandly indeed.
- Age brings its own perspective, and hammers home the true realization that for each person, the world ends at death. So worry about climate, automation, disaster, and other global terrors subsides into “will I wake up tomorrow, and how much of me will remain if I do”. We consider the immediate futures of our children and those closest to us, of course, and those projections (sometimes unfortunately) often prove true. But beyond a year or so, we are as ignorant of what may happen as any German peasant about to be overrun by armies during the Thirty Years War, or any complacent mid-level nobleman in Renaissance Florence unaware that Black Plague is beginning to seep into the edge of the city.
- Nevertheless, we all peer upward into the future, see glimmers of hope and fear, and watch them blink or vanish behind clouds for a while. Their twinkles provide a spur to our imaginations, and by doing so enrich our thoughts. What might become of everything is a fruitful source of daydreams.
- I think I understand twinkling stars as I gaze upward. But in spite of science, I have not experienced their essence. The twinkles which seem to animate them are illusions of vaporous atmosphere. That I do not really understand them should be depressing. But I am fortunately able to still immerse myself in undying memories of space opera, uncritical examinations of nocturnal beauty, unhindered visions of marvelous futures, and to allow my own consciousness to twinkle brilliantly.
- Apocryphally, Eskimos have twenty words for snow. That is not unusual _ English has many words for a bright light of short duration _ pop, burst, flash, blink, wink, sparkle, twinkle. None of these can be illustrated with a still picture _ each requires ongoing time. They are not synonyms, exactly, but all share features and can be interchanged to a certain extent. Whether a sunset on a sea twinkles, or when sparkles turn to twinkles as dusk falls,
is open to dispute.
- Words like these come so loaded with cultural and personal connotations that they are among the most difficult for non-native speakers to understand. Santa Claus typically has twinkling _ definitely not flashing and usually not sparkling _ eyes. I suppose that terrifies professional translators, but it can lead to the most astonishingly incongruous machine translations. Some are ideophones _ which somehow suggest in sound the things they represent, even though those things produce no sound at all.
- I use them as I will, especially in this blog where any excuse for anything is a good one. December for me, both in nature and not, is a season of twinkles everywhere.
I am in the midst of untangling wires and plastic edging when Stan and Jane hail me from the road. I take a moment out to walk down the driveway, grateful for a break to put my hands in pockets in the frigid breeze. “Merry Christmas,” I greet them with little enthusiasm.
“Once again, once again,” chuckles Stan. “What, you don’t get excited that Santa will be here soon, with his sleigh and reindeer and …”
“Blizzards and ice and gloom,” I finish.
“Bah! Humbug!” laughs Jane.
“Got that right in one. Just more chores, and here I am, seeing what works and what doesn’t.”
“Lots of blinking lights on the trees?”
“Just a few. We gave up on blinking a long time ago. I find the twinkle of off and on kind of monotonous, rather let the leaves and wind do the work.”
“We just saw Patty’s house _ looks like the mall or one of those neighborhood displays you see on TV. “
“Way too much work for me,” I note.
“Actually,” Sam says pensively, “we think they got it done professionally. Anything that goes up that fast without us seeing them slaving at it is probably from some service or other.”
“Wouldn’t surprise me,” I reply. “Just about everything around here lately seems to be done by somebody else. Not like when we were kids, that’s for sure.”
“Nothing is,” Jane adds. “Anyway, we’ll let you get back to work. We need to put in a few more steps before dinner.”
“Gee, thanks a lot,” I start back up to the garage.
“Don’t mention it, Scrooge. God bless us every one!”
You don’t twinkle, little star
I don’t worry what you are
If sun blinked like that, or our moon,
Everyone would scream and swoon
Life itself can twinkle so
We accept it as we go
Illusions fill the near and far
You don’t twinkle, little star.