This has been a busy week, and I’m not feeling much like sharing. In fact, I seem to be having some sort of allergy attack as I write. So I’m just going to say a few words and let a song speak eloquently for me.
I love looking at the stars at night. I bet a lot of people do. I’ve long been infatuated with space and what could be out there in the distance, how what we see in the distance is so far in the past. I live about 45 minutes from a major city and you’d think there would still be a lot of light pollution, but I find that I have a pretty clear view of the night sky from my yard.
Growing up, I never even really noticed the evening sky. My parents’ house is by street lights and lots of trees and has a very limited outdoor view. The first time I really started appreciated the night was when I went to college in downstate Illinois. It gets pretty dark down there and once my friends and I took a drive to a forest preserve. I just remember the sky looked like someone just opened up a jar of glitter and poured it out.
After that, I would enjoy looking up at the planets and stars as I walked from the music building to my dorm after practicing at night. I chose a beautiful aria for my voice recital, “Ain’t it a Pretty Night,” by Carlisle Floyd, from the opera Susannah. The opera takes place in rural Tennessee. Here is the text:
Ain't it a pretty night!
The sky's so dark and velvet-like
and it's all lit up with stars.
It's like a great big mirror
reflectin' fireflies over a pond.
Look at all them stars, Little Bat.
The longer y' look, the more y' see.
The sky seems so heavy with stars
that it might fall right down out of heaven
and cover us all up in one big blanket of velvet
all stitched with diamon's.
Ain't it a pretty night.
Just think, those stars can all peep down
an' see way beyond where we can:
They can see way beyond them mountains
to Nashville and Asheville an' Knoxville.
I wonder what it's like out there,
out there beyond them mountains
where the folks talk nice,
an' the folks dress nice
like y' see in the mail-order catalogs.
I aim to leave this valley someday
an' find out fer myself:
To see all the tall buildin's
and all the street lights
an' to be one o' them folks myself.
I wonder if I'd get lonesome fer the valley though,
fer the sound of crickets an' the smell of pine straw,
fer soft little rabbits an' bloomin' things
an' the mountains turnin' gold in the fall.
But I could always come back
if I got homesick fer the valley.
So I'll leave it someday an' see fer myself.
Someday I'll leave an' then I'll come back
when I've seen what's beyond them mountains.
Ain't it a pretty night.
The sky's so heavy with stars tonight
that it could fall right down out of heaven
an' cover us up, and cover us up,
in one big blanket of velvet and diamon'
I would whistle this aria as I walked across campus, staring at the stars, and thinking about what was out there in the universe, and it stuck. Thinking about how I felt the same way, as I was hoping to get out of downstate Illinois and become a famous opera singer.
Now I always try to take advantage of a clear night. Sometimes the moonlight even illuminates my backyard when I let the dog out. Once I was able to see a meteor shower from my back door. And I still think of that aria. If you’d like to listen to it, here’s a link. It’s beautiful.