Christmas Lights.

Source: Weather Underground

Source: Weather Underground

Several of my neighbors have put up Christmas lights, and in previous years my wife and I have spent at least one night during the holiday season just driving around looking at how people have decorated their yards. I always enjoy seeing houses lit up, even the insanely gaudy ones with fifteen Santas, sixty reindeer, three or four nativity scenes, a whole army of snowmen…yeah, you know the ones I’m talking about.

One of my neighbors has gone for a strangely subtle display by putting up a string of just green lights in the biggest tree in his front yard. They reach almost twenty feet in the air and are so separated they’re almost like individual stars. And then I turn to the backyard and the real stars.

Every year at this time I can look to the southeast and see Orion rising through the trees. Orion is the second constellation I learned to identify. The first was the Big Dipper. I remember one summer day a kid I knew said, “Tonight will be a good night to see the Big Dipper.” I asked my mother about it and that night she took me out and pointed up in the sky telling me, “There’s the handle and there’s the spoon.” I thought, what is she talking about? All I see are stars. Then I saw a picture of the Big Dipper, or Ursa Major, in a book and it all became clear. A few months later I pieced together Orion.

And I know it’s winter when I see the hunter rising through the trees.

5 Comments

  1. Maria F.

    When you mentioned Orion, I remembered Atlas, and how the Greeks thought it worked:

    “The Greeks imagined the heavens as a great, solid dome, which, some say, was forged of bronze, and upon which the heavenly constellations were fixed. The Titan Atlas, who stood either beneath the axis of heaven in the far north (in the land of the Hyperboreans), or at heaven’s western rim in by the Atlas mountains in North Africa, was said to spin the dome around upon his shoulders, causing the stars to rise and set.

    Part of the heavenly dome always lay beneath the horizon. Here the constellations were apparently believed to dwell deep beneath the earth in the misty pit of Tartaros, or else within the lands of the dead. When they rose up into the heavens, the constellations were first bathed in the purifying waters of the great earth-encircling river Okeano. Various myths describe the birth and death of the semi-immortal constellations: such as the Gemini twins, or Dioskouroi, who were said to divide their time equally between Heaven and Haides. Orion was also described by Homer both striding across the heavens and hunting wild beasts in the underworld.”-http://www.theoi.com/Cat_Astraioi.html

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      They had a very poetic view of the universe–much more elaborate than “turtles all the way down”.

      Reply
      1. Maria F.

        That’s a good one! Thanks!

        Reply
  2. Ann Koplow

    I always enjoy your subtle displays, Chris. Thanks for all the stars in this post.

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      Thank you for adding yet another star to it.

      Reply

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