star light, star bright

My default entertainment in the car is to listen to NPR, a habit I only dial away from if I’m tired and need a livelier beat, have heard the segment already, or during Christmas season when I can’t get enough of my favorite yule time carols. It isn’t my sole news source, but it’s safer than checking my twitter feed while driving, except, of course, when the tear-inducing StoryCorps airs. Now that can be hazardous.

Last week, I was en route to yoga when a piece came on about the Kerry Dark Sky Reserve in Ireland. I turned up the volume. What is a dark sky reserve? I learned it’s a place, public or private land of 173,000 acres or larger, possessing “an exceptional or distinguished quality of starry nights and a nocturnal environment.” There are three such designated places in the world, and the Kerry Dark Sky Reserve is the only one in the Northern Hemisphere.

I wanted to close my eyes and picture a place where stars are vivid, but that would have born a set of complications I decided best not to risk behind the wheel. As I listened to Ari Shapiro interview the local Irish woman who spearheaded the recent dark sky designation in Kerry, I felt the enthusiasm in her voice the same as I feel the passion of a radio broadcaster calling a baseball game. Sight unseen, I put a visit to the Kerry Dark Sky Reserve at the top of my dream travel list. I want to see the Milky Way, more shooting stars than I can count, a full moon unfettered by urban light pollution.

Once my car was safely in park, I googled images of the reserve. It’s even better than I imagined. While I know pictures don’t do it justice, I ogle them daily. I can’t explain why this reserve, why these stars, call to me. Nor do I know when the opportunity will arise to visit them, but I have to before their brilliance is diminished. After all, we’re melting the glaciers, clogging the oceans with plastic bottles, and confusing our own pineal glands with too much light, so it isn’t a stretch to presume some day we’ll ruin the last vestiges of dark sky too. I’m determined to get there before that happens.

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