IN A 1941 SHORT STORY CALLED “NIGHTFALL,” author
Isaac Asimov writes about a planet with six suns. Once

every 2,000 years, the suns would become aligned so that

they all set at once—and only then would the inhabitants of

that world know darkness. In Asimov’s story, that “nightfall,”

with its splendid, never-before-seen stars, called forth

a terror among the people that caused them to run amok,

and brought an end to their civilization.

 

Here on Earth, nightfall is so commonplace! Most of the

time, we give it no notice at all. Can we learn to look with

fresh eyes at the changes that take place every evening as

our planet turns into its own shadow and lets us see the

stars again?
 

                    Late sun-rays flicker

                    Through pine and oak foliage…

                    Mount Wilson’s best hour.
 

                            One inch at a time

                            It slides up our grassy hill—

                            Six o’clock shadow.
 

                                    How quietly

                                    Amid still and moving lights

                                    This day also fades.

 

                    — Robert L. Eklund

 

A FOGGY NIGHT ON MOUNT WILSON — Just before

sunset, the low clouds covering Los Angeles and Pasadena

begin to rise and soon engulf the mountaintop, shrouding

the Observatory in a thick fog. The night assistant on the

100-inch telescope, who had been setting up for a night

with the stars, covers the telescope and closes the dome

just in time to prevent the moist fog from condensing on

the mirrors and damaging their reflectivity. Although the

month is June, it is chilly and clammy in the fog, with a

peculiar quiet. The only sound now is the slow dripping

where fog condenses on pine-needles. There’ll be no

astronomy tonight, and the fog is too thick to drive home

in. There’s nothing left to do but stay put, slow down, let

thoughts roam, and dream…

 

                 On the other side

                 Of this damp blanket of gloom,

                 Was there a sunset?

 

                            Lost in a deep fog,

                            Old Mount Wilson is dreaming

                            Of past starry nights.

 

                  Solidly socked in,

                  This June night only reflects

                  The light we give off.

 

                            So much is hidden

                            Above this low murky sky

                            And under these words.
 

                    — Robert L. Eklund

 

 

WORDS WITH WINGS
Robert L. Eklund Writing Services
(310)
216-5947
beklund@sprynet.com

 

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