Those of you who've been following my blog might remember my love affair with the night sky. I love planets and things that used to be planets and stars and the moon and ... well, you get the picture.
Many years ago (15 or 16, I'd guess) I spent a couple of weeks in the wilds of Saskatchewan. Now, you can't really call the Qu'appelle River Valley the wilds because it's all lovely rolling hills and a river and wheat fields as far as you can see. But it is amazingly beautiful. I stayed at a monastery for a week on a writing retreat. The monastery has a wing of tiny rooms, each with their own bathroom, a tiny desk, a single bed and a window looking out over the valley and in order to keep the monastery going, they run all sorts of retreats there. They had wonderful (and way too much) food - cooked each day by women up from the town. But the best part of the week for me - besides the workshop leaders and the ability to spend a whole week talking about writing - was the fact that one of the monks was a renowned amateur astronomer.
Now remember, we're out basically in the middle of the nowhere so there is no light pollution. I mean, I'm a city girl so I don't really know what dark is, but looking out my window at night, it was DARK. So dark that if we went down to the town for dinner and came back, we had to carry flashlights to see our way from the parking lot down to the monastery. Dark. Very dark.
The monk had a world-class small observatory built into the hill outside the monastery and one night he invited us out to check out the rings of Saturn and the Persiads. It was incredible. The telescope was huge and the sky and the stars and the planets were as well.
I saw the rings of Saturn almost as they look in the photograph. I saw the tiniest of pockmarks on the moon. On our way back to the monastery we laid down in the grass and watched as the Persiads flew through the sky like birds racing home to nest.
That night, that place, those stars, are stuck in my mind forever.